Most coffee capsules are made of plastic, aluminium or a combination of both. This means that after use if they’re not taken apart, washed out and processed in specially equipped facilities, they can’t be recycled. The world drinks 13,500 capsule coffees per minute, and only 21% of them are recycled. The rest will still be on our planet for up to 500 years.
When the world woke up to how dangerous plastic is, the coffee capsule industry responded by making some of them out of recyclable materials. But putting a reassuring word like “recyclable” on the front of the box doesn’t instantly solve the problem and can be misleading.
The term came with a lot of conditions. In order for the supposedly recyclable capsules to be recycled, they either need to be taken apart, washed out and dried at home before being thrown away or processed industrially at specially equipped plants. The R-word, understandably, can confuse consumers into throwing their capsules straight from their coffee machine into the recycling bin, contaminating the waste and meaning the whole bag ends up in landfill.
Recognising this, some brands then transitioned into using biodegradable materials, but there is still very little clarity on how to dispose of these after use. Although a lot better than other options, some of them still need to be sent off to be industrially composted in order to live up to their sustainable claims.
The capsule coffee industry found a way to meet the minimum requirements for printing consumer-reassuring, environmentally friendly words on their packaging – but not much changed. There are still thousands of colourful, shiny capsules dropping into the top of Nespresso® machines every minute, most of them still destined to stick around hundreds of years longer than the businesses who made them and the people who use them.
Brands won’t stop tacking green credentials onto some of 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. On a pragmatic level, intentions don’t actually matter. But it’s not OK when eco-jargon is used 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 made an effort to find products that truly lived up to their claims and researched how to dispose of the packaging properly were faced with a limited selection. Businesses often sold all of their best coffees in regular packaging, and then their token eco-friendly range would 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're doing about it
We created the world’s first 100% compostable paper capsule made from sugar cane and paper pulp. This means that wherever they end up, they won’t be there long. And when they break down, they allow the nutrient-rich coffee grounds to become fertile soil for plants to grow in. Ours can be thrown in food waste bins or compost bins and don’t need to be taken apart at home before processing or 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 Coffea 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 as a response to the environmental damage caused by plastic and aluminium coffee pods. It’s a big problem, and the solution is a collaborative effort. We work with an international network of environmental experts and our members to keep improving and innovating. Every time someone buys Halo coffee, we move closer to our goal.
We’re also working on collaborations with chefs and 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 learned is that a commitment to excellence isn’t easy. We’ve had to balance far more individual suppliers than we first realised we would need in order to ensure that all of our packaging is as sustainable as it can be. We’ve repurposed off-cuts, we’ve turned our 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 of luxury. 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. 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’ve inviting opinions too. From our members, or from anyone who thinks they can help us improve in any way. If you have any feedback, we would be grateful to hear from you.