Small capsule, big problem

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

In many countries, coffee capsules can be collected separately and recycled, at least in part. Consumers in Luxembourg do not have this option – although it would theoretically be possible. Recently, however, the EU Commission also became involved in the discussion.

Camille Muller can be described as a coffee lover. Over the course of a morning, he sometimes drinks six espressos. "That's a lot, " he admits. He is also the project manager of the online advice portal Oekotopen. On the website, consumers can find tips on how to save energy and resources and compare particularly economical household appliances, smartphones and e-mobility devices. Coffee machines can also be found there. However, coffee pod machines are nowhere to be found.

This is "a very conscious decision, " for which the portal has many reasons. One of them is that most capsules end up in the residual waste after their single use. According to the environmental administration, there were about 55.7 million in 2022. Four years earlier, this figure was 54.6 million tonnes, according to a media report at the time already 30 percent more than in 2013. In the press release sent out in January of this year, the authority predicted that this "sad trend" would continue. The collected containers including the content – which are either made of aluminium, plastic or a plastic-aluminium composite – weighed a total of about 887 tonnes.

The fact that pods primarily end up in the grey bin is in line with Camille Muller's observations in his private environment. However, he does not want to blame consumers for their behaviour. Only one producer – more on this later – takes back used capsules, but this solution is impractical for many consumers, so one cannot blame people if they dispose of their capsules in the residual waste, he says in an interview with the Lëtzebuerger Journal.

However, there is another way. In Belgium, consumers have been able to dispose of beverage capsules – made of aluminium or plastic – in the blue bag since the beginning of the year. According to Fost Plus, the Belgian organisation in charge of collecting, separating and recycling packaging waste, about 4,500 tonnes of additional material could be collected in this way. "Plastic capsules also have a high recycling potential, " the organisation says, even though the recycling effort is much more complex.

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