We can’t deny it: coffee is important in most people’s lives… and in ours. I wake up a lot more slowly without it.
We used to have not one but two Nespresso machines. One at home, one in the office. I loved it. But I’ve figured out lately that I don’t really need Nespresso in the morning. I need caffeine.
The waste that comes with Nespresso (or any other pod coffee) had been bothering me more and more. On a monthly basis, my husband and I would use between 180 to 240 capsules. Per year that would be between 2190 and 2920 capsules!
I sent Nespresso an e-mail asking them how many of the capsules sold are actually returned. (I did not ask them how many of the returned capsules are actually recycled). They referred me to their marketing manager. I re-sent the e-mail to her. No answer! I have to assume that not many are actually returned. On the internet, in an interview with Nespresso I found that it was 25% in 2018, up from 20% in 2016. It’s a start but it is also nowhere near good enough because aluminium can be recycled and Nespresso hands out recycling bags, but they do not encourage recycling in any way.
To their credit, Nespresso is lobbying hard for used capsules to be put in the blue PMD (plastic, metal and drinking cartons) recycling bag but so far, I don’t think it’s allowed.
Assuming that we drink 3 to 4 coffees a day each, that is 6 to 8 pods a day (for the both of us). A pod holds 5 grams of coffee. Per month, that is 900 to 1200 grams of coffee per month.
Consumption of 6 to 8 pods a day costs 65 to 85 EUR per month. Any alternative will be cheaper than that! Besides, you can order Nespresso online, but they will not send you any recycling bags! For that, you have to go to the shop. Also, you have to take your recycling bags to a collection point, as they do not accept them in the shop.
We decided to try out a couple of alternatives. My husband likes his espresso. I like my long coffee. I decided to go for a French coffee press, he decided to go for an espresso Bialetti percolator. You can use both systems with just coffee; no pods of any kind!!
The glass of my French coffee press broke within a year so instead of replacing it I started drinking my husband’s Bialetti coffee, which is fine. I just add some boiling water to it to get my long coffee. So we both use that now.
The small Bialetti coffee maker cost us 30 EUR. I bought a large one for my husband for Christmas, it was 78 EUR but the lady from the shop said that it was one for life. The Nespresso machine is most definitely not! My first machine broke down after 6 years.
In that same coffee shop (luckily just around the corner), you can buy freshly ground coffee. You can take your own container to the shop and they will fill it with beans, weigh it, then grind it on the spot, straight from the original hessian sack into your container.
They sell different types of coffee. We have tried the following:
Ethiopian coffee costs 16 EUR/kilo.
We get through ½ kilo per week. That is more than Nespresso but it is considerably cheaper. That takes the coffee bill up to 28 to 32 EUR per month. That is less than half the price of Nespresso.
In the office, they have recently installed a Nespresso machine. The used pods are picked up by Nespresso. That’s good. But what happens next, I am still not sure about.
Even though by going back to Nespresso in the office I had to admit that I love it, I have decided today to stop using it. I bought myself a thermos flask that I will fill in the morning with Bialetti coffee and take with me. I can be totally waste-free on coffee so that is what I will do. And even if that means I have to buy more coffee, it will still be cheaper than Nespresso.
For other coffee making solutions such as Senseo, I refer to my blogpost on teabags and all the chemicals that are used to make teabags, in this case the Senseo coffee pods. The same goes for coffee filters. If you don’t want to ingest pesticides, stay away from them!
We’ve dropped all Nespresso pods and their cardboard box and replaced it by a zero waste – I repeat zero waste – solution from a shop nearby. We take an empty 500g container once a week and they fill it.
We purchased 2 Bialetti coffee makers but they are for life. That is a one-off investment of 30 and 78 EUR. I may have to replace the rubber ring in the middle every now and then but it is a lot cheaper than having to replace your Nespresso machine. And it makes excellent coffee; millions of Italians swear by the Bialetti, and they should know.
The coffee we buy now is at least 50% cheaper than the one we used to buy.
Our two Bialettis take up less space than the Nespresso machines.
The coffee takes up less space than the Nespresso pods.
Time and effort impact
Instead of having to go into town to the Nespresso shop (because we did want the recycling bags), we can now go to a local shop and buy it there.
Furthermore, we do not have to take the used pods to the recycling collection point anymore.
Next: milk, eggs and fruit juice.