environment recycling sustainability

Eco Coffee: Espress Eco versus Nespresso

When my wife’s parents first came to visit us in South Africa from France they tried to buy us a gift. The first option was a TV (we didn’t want one), the second was a dishwasher (I wanted it!! but we didn’t have space in the flat :-(), the third was a Nespresso coffee machine, which we got. It is great especially for quick, early morning coffees before work. The one thing I do hate about it though, are the capsules, which despite constant badgering of the staff at the Nespresso shop, I could not recycle (see bag full o’ capsules below). Outpresso offered one option of separating the aluminium casing from the ground coffee but didn’t seem to catch on in South Africa.


I recently encountered Espress Eco, which offers more promising recycling results. These capsules are “made from environmentally-friendly plant-based materials and are fully biodegradable.” I tried these out and I must say the difference between them and the Nespresso capsules is negligible, aside from the fact that these are easily disposed of and won’t clog up landfills as much as the Nespresso ones will.

There are discernable differences. The capsules don’t fit as snugly as the Nespresso ones. According to Espress Eco, because “they are made out of plant material, they heat up differently to other plastic capsules, which may cause them to swell and to get stuck.” Fair enough, it is not a train smash and on the one occasion that mine got stuck, it was easily removed. The range of coffee is not as broad as Nespresso, which again, is not the end of the world. Espress Eco are just starting out and entering a market dominated by Nespresso and a smaller range might be considered an advantage to the indecisive :-).

Two out of their seven coffees are also certified organic and Fairtrade but it seems that Nespresso coffee has a similar ‘AAA Sustainable Quality’ programme (see ‘Is Nespresso coffee fair trade coffee?’).  Pricewise, Espress Eco comes in at about a tenth cheaper, if not a little more in some instances, and their ‘discovery pack‘, ten sleeves for R371, is a bargain. These are my experiences and opinion. I would suggest trying out the Espress Eco capsules – less expensive, good coffee and you don’t have to babysit a huge bag of aluminuim capsule while Nespresso South Africa work out their recycling strategy.

5 replies on “Eco Coffee: Espress Eco versus Nespresso”

I went into the Nespresso shop in the Waterfront two weeks ago to drop off a very large bag full of used capsules. Have made a point of returning these everytime I bought more for the past 3 years, and each time I get the same answer, “setting up a recycling project is our # 1 goal for this year, but in the meantime we will pass these empty ones to an artist who uses them”… Usually, I just have to smile before I buy another set of capsules (I do like convenient and good coffee!), but this time I had an alternative and didn’t buy from them. I feel that it is irresponsible for a company like Nestle (and its glossy hollywood endorsements) to overlook the issue and completely incredible that in the space of 3 years in a context where corporate socio-economic development programmes can have profound impacts nothing could be set up. Hoping that some green competition will help them to rethink their approach…

I used the espresseco pods in my nespresso citi’s machine and it completely stuffed up the pressure. Had to get it fixed at nespresso at a cost of R600. Be careful of using compatible pods. If they’re getting stuck they will spoil your machine.

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