The majority of the worlds coffee capsules are made of plastic, aluminium, or a combination of both. Of the 13,500 capsule coffees consumed every minute, only 21% of them are recycled. This is because some coffee capsules cannot be recycled at all, while those that can are recycled via a long and tedious process. The un-recycled capsules can remain on our planet for up to 500 years.
As the world is becoming more aware to the environmental damage caused by plastic and aluminium use. The coffee capsule industry has responded by producing capsules that are more easily recyclable. But putting a reassuring word like ‘recyclable’ on the front of a box can be misleading and doesn’t instantly solve the problem.
The term comes with a lot of conditions. Unless coffee capsules are taken apart, washed out and processed in specially equipped facilities after use, they can’t be recycled. The R-word, understandably, can confuse consumers into throwing their capsules straight from their coffee machine into the recycling bin thinking they have done their part for the environment. The harsh truth is that these capsules will be rejected at the plant and sent either to landfill or incinerated.
Recognising this, some brands have transitioned into using industrially compostable materials. However there is still very little clarity on how to dispose of these after use. Although much better than other options, bio-plastic capsules still need to be sent off to specially equipped plants where they may still be rejected due to the similarity in look and feel to oil-based plastics.
The coffee capsule industry has found a way to meet the minimum requirements for printing consumer-reassuring, environmentally friendly terms on their packaging – but not much has actually changed. There are still thousands of colourful, shiny capsules dropping into the top of Nespresso machines every minute, most of them destined to stick around for hundreds of years longer than the businesses who made them and the people who use them.
Brands won’t stop tacking green credentials onto their products in order to appeal to an evolving consumer conscience. It’s always going to happen and it’s no bad thing. It proves that consumers can make a difference and demand can truly change supply. However, it’s not OK to use eco-jargon to confuse people into purchasing something that isn’t as good as they think.
It’s also not OK that responsible coffee consumption often comes with a sacrifice. Consumers who make an effort to find products that truly live up to their claims and research how to dispose of the packaging properly are faced with a limited selection. Businesses often sell all their best coffee in non-environmentally friendly packaging, and their token eco-friendly ranges force a choice between palate and planet.
We don’t believe this compromise should ever be made. And that’s why Halo exists.
‘The brands that consumers want now, care about craft, about beauty, about perfection. But the brands that consumers truly love, care about all of these things without foresaking the world around them.
Nils Leonard, Co-founder of Halo
What we are doing about it
We have created the world’s first Nespressò compatible, 100% compostable paper capsule made from sugar cane and paper pulp. This means that wherever they end up, our capsules won’t be there long. When they break down, they allow the nutrient-rich coffee grounds to become fertile soil for plants to grown in. Our capsules can be thrown in food waste or compost bins and don’t need to be taken apart at home before processing or be broken down by specially designed machinery at waste management plants.
And not believing in compromise, we filled our innovative capsules with the best coffees in the world.
Our signature bespoke blend, Three Mountain, is sourced from three of the highest peaks in the world. Our single origin from Colombia, Pacamara, is a rare variety often used in the World Barista Championships. Our decaffeinated coffee, Halo Minus, is from the forests of Kaffa in Ethiopia, where Coffee Arabica was first discovered growing wild.
Where we are going
Halo was born to bring people the world’s best coffees in a way that’s best for the world. We designed our capsules in response to the environmental damage caused by plastic and aluminium pods. It’s a big problem and the solution is a collaborative effort. We work with an international network of environmental experts as well as our members to keep improving and innovating.
We’re also working with coffee experts around the world to make even more and even rarer coffees available in our capsules. This includes the single origin and rarest coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak.
But we want to go beyond coffee. We are always learning, and one thing we’ve learnt is that a commitment to excellence isn’t easy. We’ve had to balance more individual suppliers than we first realised we would need in order to ensure that all our packaging is as sustainable as possible. We’ve repurposed off-cuts, turned printing proofs into gift boxes and we’ve asked ourselves at every stage, “how can we do this in a way that’s best for the world?”
Every time we’ve been presented with an opportunity to just do it the normal way, we’ve interrogated the process until we found a way to do it better.
We are entering a new age. One that refuses to treat the planet worse than we treat ourselves. One that insists on never doing one without the other. Ethical consumption is no longer a category, it’s a culture. Every time someone buys Halo coffee, we move closer to our goal.
Coffee is what we know, so that’s where we’ve begun. But it’s not the end. We are always going to be seeking out opportunities for collaboration, and, critically, for education too. This is where we have got to, but to go further we need to keep learning. We want everyone who enjoys Halo to be part of our story. We’re not just inviting people to drink great coffee, we’re inviting opinions too.