They are available in the most diverse colours, shapes and materials - coffee capsules. With the right choice, they brew the perfect coffee at the touch of a button. At the same time, however, they also produce several tons of packaging waste every year. With this in mind, this blog post looks at how best to dispose of coffee capsules and what the issue of recycling is when disposing of coffee capsules.

Most contributions on the disposal of coffee capsules discuss above all how recycling can improve the ecological balance of coffee capsules made of aluminium or plastic. Within the dual system, coffee capsules are also to be recycled. The aim is to return the valuable raw materials to the cycle in order to use them for new products. With approximately 59 billion capsules consumed worldwide each year, this debate is both justified and urgently needed.

Capsule material, capsule disposal, recyclable is not equally sustainable

The link between recycling and sustainability

Also in our daily customer contact and in our private environment, we in the rezemo team notice more and more that the term "recyclable" is often associated with the topic of sustainability. It is often even equated with the term "sustainable". On the one hand, this shows how strongly our society focuses on the dual system. On the other hand, however, these days in particular there are more and more reports of infinitesimally low recycling rates for plastics. This is due, among other things, to the high effort required to separate plastics according to type. In addition, the current low oil price is driving the demand for recycled plastics down to the basement. This means that many manufacturers are relying on new rather than recycled packaging materials. The reason for this is that, in addition to the often higher quality, these are simply cheaper.

To understand how coffee capsules are disposed of in the most environmentally friendly way, we first need to take a look at our disposal system.

The classification of coffee capsules in the German disposal system

The German waste disposal system is based on waste separation. This means that there are different ways of disposal. These can be divided into energy recovery (residual waste), organic recovery (compost) and recovery in the dual system (recycling). Everything that is neither compostable nor recyclable is added to the residual waste. The residual waste collected here is thermally recovered, i.e. incinerated. The thermal energy generated during incineration is usually used to generate electricity. Organic recycling includes all waste that is of plant or animal origin. The dual system includes all other types of reusable materials that can be reused through recycling. This also includes plastics or aluminium, for example. So this also applies to the majority of the packaging we use in our everyday lives.

rezemo coffee capsule on hand in front of a bio trash can

The correct disposal of the coffee capsules depends on their material

Most coffee capsules are either made of aluminium, fossil plastic, a proportion of bio-based plastics or a mixture of these materials. Both plastic and aluminium packaging is usually disposed of through the dual system. For this purpose, they are placed in the recycling bin (also known as the yellow bin or yellow bag). This means that the materials should not be incinerated, but recycled and further processed.

Adding coffee capsules to the dual system sounds logical and sensible. However, there is a serious problem: To dispose of packaging, including coffee capsules, via the dual system, they must be completely empty. They must also be as pure as possible in their composition. Now one can imagine that this emptying by the consumer only takes place for a very small number of coffee capsules. In addition, especially with plastic capsules, pure material is the exception. Composite materials are often used here. This means that the actual recycling rates for plastic and aluminium coffee capsules are correspondingly low.

As an alternative, many manufacturers offer coffee capsules made of bio-based plastics, which are mixed proportionally with regular plastic. Most of these coffee capsules made of so-called "biodegradable" plastics must not be disposed of in the organic waste bin, as is often assumed. The industrial composting plants recognise the capsules for the most part as foreign bodies due to their colour and material properties and sort them out. As a result, these types of coffee capsules are also usually sent for incineration via residual waste - the energy-intensive fossil raw materials are thus lost.

rezemo raw materials in storage jars

Why recycling cannot be the solution

For us at rezemo, the problem with the concept of recycling goes far beyond the limits of coffee capsules. In our view, recycling only deals with a symptom, but not the actual cause of the problem. Recycling systems have been introduced because the production and later disposal of aluminium and petroleum-based plastics are associated with high costs for our planet.

This is because both aluminium and plastic capsules are mainly made from fossil raw materials. Aluminium is extracted from the aluminium ore bauxite, which is mined in the tropical belt, e.g. in the rainforests of Brazil. Fossil plastics, on the other hand, are produced from crude oil. The main disadvantage of these raw materials is, on the one hand, that they are finite and the natural supply is decreasing from year to year. On the other hand, the extraction of these raw materials is usually associated with an enormous energy demand. Added to this are the negative consequences for the ecosystems and environment in the mining regions. For more information please have a look at our blog post on the topic SUSTAINABLE MATERIAL INNOVATION

This means that recycling merely ensures that these environmentally harmful raw materials do not become useless after a single use. However, the real cause of the problem lies in the raw materials themselves. Disposable packaging should simply not consist of such materials. Moreover, the sustainability debate on recycling, especially for fossil plastics, ignores other well-known disadvantages. From decomposition into microplastics, which eventually ends up everywhere and even in our stomachs, to carcinogenic components and the hormonal effectiveness of some petroleum-based plastics. Not to mention the long-term debate about the potential health risks of aluminium.


The solution: coffee capsules made from renewable raw materials that are 100% bio-based

So instead of continuing to treat the symptoms, we at rezemo have decided to tackle the root of the problem and fight its cause. For us, this lies in the raw materials. That is why we have developed the rezemo wooden coffee capsules for Nespresso®* machines. They are 100% bio-based and thus produced on the basis of renewable raw materials. These raw materials are also processed into our capsules using far less energy.

bio-based capsules, capsule disposal without concern

How are the sustainable rezemo coffee capsules correctly disposed of?

Since we approach the problem of disposable packaging from the raw materials side, the later disposal of our rezemo coffee capsules becomes secondary. Instead of the man-made approach of recycling, we rely with our products on the natural cycle of our earth. All the materials we use originate from the cycle of nature and can therefore be returned to it after use.

May the rezemo coffee capsules be disposed of in the compost or in the organic waste bin?

Our sustainable coffee capsules for Nespresso®* machines capsules consist mainly of wood in the form of wood shavings. These are mixed with a binder made from plant starch. You can find more information about the composition and production of our coffee capsules at THE CAPSULE.

Since coffee capsules are basically considered packaging, according to legislation they should be disposed of via the dual system. However, if they consist entirely of renewable raw materials, as ours do, they are actually waste of plant origin. Due to the main component, wood fibres, the capsules decompose much faster than regular bio-based or compostable packaging. However, waste management companies in Germany have decided to exclude bio-based packaging from organic recycling as well. This applies regardless of the different certifications that already exist for the industrial composting of biobased products. Accordingly, our rezemo coffee capsule may unfortunately not be disposed of in the organic waste bin in Germany.

You can dispose of our sustainable coffee capsules in your residual waste

You can dispose of your used rezemo coffee capsules in the residual waste. They will also end up there if your waste disposal company sorts them out of the organic recycling (bio bin). Here they do not become compost. However, due to their composition of 100% renewable raw materials, they are incinerated with an optimised CO2 footprint. Since renewable raw materials bindCO2 during their growth, the net CO2 content of our atmosphere does not increase even when they are incinerated. For more information, take a look at our blog post on the topic of RENEWABLE RAW MATERIALS on this topic.

rezemo coffee capsules are based on the raw materials wood chips and PLA.


Coffee capsules made of aluminium and plastics can only be recycled to a limited extent. Realistically, it can be assumed that only a marginal proportion of the coffee capsules disposed of in the recycling bin are actually recycled. Even most coffee capsules made of bioplastics often still contain a smaller proportion of fossil plastics and are sorted out in the composting plants. Here it is always worth taking a closer look at the ingredients and checking the exact proportion of biobased raw materials. If this does not correspond to 100%, as is the case with our capsule, it is always worth investigating what the remaining proportion of the capsules consists of.

In contrast, completely bio-based coffee capsules, such as our Coffee capsules made from wooddo not release permanent microplastics into the environment. Their raw materials do not have to be mined under environmentally critical conditions and they do not cause additional costs through their recycling in the dual system. They come from the natural cycle of our earth - because what's important is what's inside!


Are you curious and would like to try our sustainable coffee capsules in your Nespresso®* machine?

In our online shop you will find the entire variety of rezemo editions, including our free shipping sets - suitable for rezemo beginners. Just have a look!

ZUM rezemo online shop

*Trademark of a third party company that is not associated with rezemo GmbH

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