NESPRESSO and the aluminum capsules or: 40 euros for a  pound of coffee and nature has to pend behind…

A friend asked me to investigate about Nespresso and its coffee capsules.

Nespresso is selling coffee in cup servings, which are little aluminum capsules. There are numerous types of them and each type has its own color and pattern. One capsule costs about 40 cents which is much more expensive than buying a pound of coffee in a bag.

Nespresso reaches takings of about 40 euros per pound.

Just to compare:  Normal coffee costs about 4 or 5 euros per pound.

Coffee gourmets who buy as well the capsules as the appropriate machine have the opportunity to feel like sitting in a café while they are consuming the coffee at home. I do understand this because my friend and his wife have invited me to have such a cup of coffee several times.

First I will tell some facts and then you’ll be able to read how I chatted with NESPRESSO on its impressing website.

The facts:

1. Aluminum requires the very harmful bauxit mining in rainforest territories all around the world

On the one hand because nearly all the bauxit lies among rainforest roots and on the other hand because bauxit mining creates highly toxic red mud which has to be deposited costly (but isn’t … the red mud pollutes the rainforests’ waters) or neutralized. Here there is an article about bauxit mining which is more or less neutral (which means it is not written by the aluminum enterprises themselves): http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35340528

2. Aluminum cannot be recycled entirely – so there is always a bauxit mining need

The melting down of the aluminum requires much energy because the melting point is a temperature of 660 degrees celsius (which is 1,220 degrees fahrenheit). As a result of the melting process will emerge alumium dross which contains about 10 per cent of the former aluminum waste. This comes from the so-called carbonizing. The dross is not pure aluminum and therefore cannot be used for new capsules. The rest of the capsule – 13 per cent plastic and paint are burned or become a part of the dross. – Are there also gases caused by the recycling process? This question hasn’t been answered by NESPRESSO yet. (read below – “Questions and answers”).

Here there is an article about aluminum recycling and why we have to avoid aluminum products:

https://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/recycling-aluminum-good-thing-right.html

3. Aluminums’ melting point are 1,220 degrees fahrenheit – its recycling requires much energy

Nespresso wants to make the consumers believe that the burning of the coffee grounds which remain in the used aluminum capsule has an important role …  reading Nespressos phrases a naive reader could believe that it requires only the energy of the burned coffee grounds to recycle a capsule. And this cannot be. Try by yourself and burn 5 grams of humid coffee ground ….

So we have to realize: Although aluminum recycling is much less harmful than bauxit mining it still remains the fact that it requires much energy. This is a requirement which just wouldn’t be there if there weren’t any aluminum capsules.

And now you can witness my questioning – odyssey on Nespresso’s website and later on in my e-mail account:

“Quality and sustainability go hand in hand for Nespresso – from the coffee berry until the disposal of our capsules.” (excerpt of the firm’s website)

What this really means?

Nespresso says that its farmers receive prices for their coffee which are 30 or 40 per cent higher than the market price. This means that a farmer gets 1.3  or 1.4 times more money for his coffee than the usual buying price.

Nespresso receives 8 times more money for the coffee than the usual vending price.  And remind the fact that the buying price paid by the food firms is far below the usual vending price which the consumer has to pay.

Nespresso says, that 300 agronomists develop activity plans in order to make the farmers fulfil 296 criteria of sustainability.

Which are the 296 criteria of sustainability?

Here starts the online chat with the website managers:

Question:  Which are the 296 criteria of sustainability which have to be fulfilled by the 70,000 farmers?

NESPRESSO:

“It would take too much time to explain every single point here, but in the moment we are co-operating with more than 70,000 coffee farmers in 12 coffee producing countries in order to improve the coffee quality, the ecological and social sustainability and the productivity. Further information you will find here: https://www.nespresso.com/de/en/our-choices”
(Remark: Lamentably I can’t find even one particular criterium of sustainability there.)

Question:  Is there deforestation of rainforest for the cultivation of the coffee?

NESPRESSO:

“Nespresso is taking care of the questions around the deforestation rainforest caused by bauxit open-cast mining. As founding member of the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) Nespressa took part in the development of the ASI Performance Standards. These do lay down clear principles for biodiversity management. A part of this are risk valuations, development of management processes and specified obligations for the avoidance of impact on protected areas. The standard has been launched in 2014. Nespresso has the task to comply with the ASI standards regarding the purchase of aluminum.”

Question:

And what about the influences on rainforest which is outside the protected areas? And what does “protected area” mean? Is it equal to “rainforest” or does it mean “national park”?

And furthermore I wanted to know if there is deforestation of rainforest for the coffee plantations themselves.

NESPRESSO:

“During the AAA Program the coffee farmers obtain education for the sustainable coffee cultivation and bonus payments for quality and sustainability. The programs aims at improving the coffee quality, the ecological and social sustainability and the productivity on the coffee farms. During the program the farmers are acompanied by a network of about 300 agronomists in order to improve sustainability and productivity while quality stays high. If you want a more detailed answer you can write us an e-mail at dekontakt@nespresso.com. We would be pleased to give more detailed information about this topic.”

Question: 

I need more information than the mere reference on programs and standards. I want to know what it really means for the cultivation, the farmers and the environment. I don’t mind repeating my questions but they will stay the same …

NESPRESSO:      Of course 🙂 We will write you!

(I didn’t receive a more detailed answer to these questions until today…)

Question:  Do you know, that the “Rainforest Alliance” is critizised most of all regarding the cultivation of bananas? They are said to spray pesticides on that farms which make the workers babies get born ill … that sounds horrible. Is this true? And if it’s true: What are you doing about it?

NESPRESSO:

“Many thanks for your interest. I will collect detailed information and send them to you via e-mail.”

(There was no further answer to this question – neither via e-mail.)

As I kept on investigating I found some text about sustainability on the website of “Rainforest Alliance”:

“Maintenance of biodiversity: Certified plantations protect their natural eco-systems and don’t contribute to deforestation. The help conserving the landscape they are a part of by sustaining wildlife corridors and water systems and by avoiding negative influences on nearby protected areas. They support the protection of endangered species and other local animals and plants by prohibiting hunting, preventing the spread of invasive species and taking steps by the help of which the conflicts between humans and wild animals are kept little.”

(On my behalf the information is not very concrete.)

They say, Nespresso is planting billions of trees. I found a (German) article about this:

www.umweltdialog.de/de/unternehmen/oekologie/2017/Wie-viel-Klimaschutz-steckt-in-Kaffeekapseln.php

Here  the author says: “Nespresso is planting billions of trees in the AAA cultivation regions, together with its partner Pur Projet (…). Until today 1.4 billion trees have been planted, until 2020 there are to be about 5 billion. (…) Practically they plant high-growing trees among the plantation plants. (…) They keep the soil more resistent, protect it from erosion, they filter the water and support the biodiversity.”

At this point I finally felt content with Nesspresso. The idea of planting trees on coffee farms seems exemplary to me.

Conclusion:

Most of all regarding energy need and the efficiency of aluminum recycling Nespresso doesn’t tell the entire truth to its consumers.

Bauxit mining is inevitable for the production of aluminum coffee capsules.

So I have a very important question:

Why doesn’t Nespresso say “Goodbye” to the aluminum capsules and go on with selling stainless steel scoops with a handle which are for only one coffee cup and which can be used repeatedly in the coffee machine?

The answer will be:  Because  Nespresso doesn’t want to say “Goodbye” to its huge profit made by the aluminum capsules.

Nobody would pay 40 euros for a pound of coffee in a bag.

Seems like we love to pay 40 cents for a coloured small capsule. Maybe in this we feel like children that are allowed to play …

Will we think about the aluminum and its harm to nature one day?

Yours sincerely,

Franziska

 

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