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Capsule coffee is a vacuum-packed form of coffee made from ground, processed beans. Compared to coffee machines that use ground beans, capsules are a relatively simple device that allows you to enjoy coffee in the comfort of your own home.
As capsule coffee produces a flavor similar to that of coffee in cafes, the number of users seeking capsule coffee has gradually increased due to its convenience. Especially after the pandemic, the domestic capsule coffee market has grown rapidly. According to market research firm Euromonitor, the Korean capsule coffee market was valued at KRW 198 billion in 2020, 42.8% larger than in 2019. The demand for capsule coffee is explained by the social distancing and home cafe craze caused by COVID-19. Consumers who were burdened by the price hike of coffee at coffee shops started to look for capsule coffee as an alternative.
Capsule coffee, a source of environmental pollution?
It is not widely known that capsule coffee, which provides convenience to consumers, causes environmental pollution during the disposal process. The sealed structure of capsule coffee makes it difficult to separate and collect the coffee grounds left inside the capsule.  The capsule consists of a cap, filter, and basket. The basket contains the beans and is sealed with a cap. The cap is the lid part, and there are two filters on the top and bottom of the basket, and the ground beans are placed between them. Hot water is added to the bottom of the basket, opposite the cap, and the coffee is brewed through the filters and into the cap. The grounds left after brewing are difficult to separate from the filter and basket.
As a result, waste coffee capsules are often disposed of in the trash without proper separation. According to a recent survey of 500 consumers who have used capsule coffee within the past year by Korea Consumer Resources, less than half of them (42%) dispose of capsule containers according to their material.
One of the reasons for this lack of separation is that capsule coffee falls under an exception to the labeling guidelines. Capsules fall under an exemption to Article 6 of the Directive on separate waste packaging, i.e. packaging with a volume of 30 milliliters or 30 grams or less. In addition to the exemption, the lack of information and the structure of the capsules seem to hinder the separation of the capsules, as there were responses in the survey that it is difficult to separate the capsules because they are not sure whether they are recyclable or not, and they are mixed with various materials. Accordingly, there is a movement to solve environmental problems surrounding coffee capsules.
Organization of capsule coffee containers
Korea Consumer Resources
Rebirth of capsule coffee through circulation
Nespresso, the coffee brand of food and beverage multinational Nestlé, has established a system to collect and recycle used coffee capsules. Since 2011, Nespresso has been collecting used coffee capsules, separating them into aluminum and coffee powder, and recycling each. Customers can request a “recycling bag” on the Nespresso website, specifying the date and exact collection location. After consumers collect their used capsules, the aluminum and coffee powder are separated. The aluminum is used to make cans, car parts, etc. and the coffee powder is recycled into manure for farms.
Image of Nespresso recycling bags
However, Nespresso’s capsule coffee take-back program has been criticized by some as a prime example of greenwashing. According to British market research firm Mintel, Nestlé claimed to increase the recycling rate of its aluminum containers to 100%, but the actual recycling rate was only 29%. Katrin Hartmann’s book Environmentalism in Disguise points out that Nespresso produces at least 8,000 tons of empty aluminum waste every year. While the company claims to be eco-friendly through its recycling system, it doesn’t actually offer a concrete solution to the problem of capsule coffee pollution.
Going green with packaging
One alternative is to change the packaging of coffee스포츠토토 capsules rather than recycle them. British coffee brand Halo sells biodegradable capsules. Halo coffee capsules contain ground coffee inside a paper pulp made from sugarcane. They are 100% compostable, meaning they will break down within 90 days if you throw them in your food recycling bin after use. You don’t need to dispose of the coffee powder and packaging separately, just throw them in the trash. This way, Halo capsules are recycled into fertile soil.
Capsule coffee discarded in the trash can
Coffee balls are another sustainable idea. Coffee balls are an alternative to capsule coffee that eliminates the use of aluminum and plastic capsules. The Swiss coffee brand CoffeeB sells coffee balls and a dedicated coffee machine.  The coffee balls contain ground coffee inside a thin protective layer made of natural fuel and come with no packaging. The film is tasteless and odorless and does not affect the taste and aroma of the coffee. Used coffee balls are completely compostable. They have no packaging other than the thin film that surrounds them, so they can be thrown into the soil and converted into fertilizer. 
▲ COFFEE B Coffee balls are loaded into the coffee machine.
Recycap, a startup from Valencia, Spain, focused on coffee capsule recycling technology and introduced REACT, a platform that can disassemble coffee capsules with automated technology without human intervention. REACT is a system that sorts and discharges used coffee capsules in a form suitable for recycling, which is a useful technology considering the fact that coffee capsules are currently not collected in accordance with the standards for separate discharge.
REACT has three stages of sorting. First, it sorts