Recycling of aluminium coffee capsules, growing results for Nespresso and CIAL’s project.

“Da Chicco a Chicco” project (From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain) has recycled over 7,000 tons of exhausted aluminium capsules since 2011. In 2021, it recorded + 18% compared to the previous year.

More and more successful results have been recorded by “From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain”, the project implemented by Nespresso in collaboration with CIAL (Italian National Consortium of Aluminium Packaging) to facilitate the recovery and recycling of exhausted aluminium capsules in Italy.

In 2021, the project made it possible to recover over 1,500 tons of exhausted aluminium capsules (+ 18% compared to 2020, equivalent to 277 tons), 677 tons of exhausted coffee and 58 tons of aluminium to be put back into circulation. This is a good result for the circular economy programme founded in 2011 by Nespresso in Italy, also confirmed by the results achieved in the first quarter of 2022, with 472 tons of collected capsules, + 13% compared to the same period in 2021. 

To guarantee a second life to exhausted capsules through their recycling is a commitment made by Nespresso in Italy more than ten years ago, when it launched the first system in the country for the recovery and recycling of used aluminium capsules. This strong approach to environmental and social sustainability has guided the company for over 30 years, in the awareness that coffee can truly be a force at the service of the common good, capable of positively influencing communities, the environment and the climate. Nespresso has placed these principles at the centre of its strategies by adopting a Planet-friendly business model, which has also allowed it to be recently certified as B Corp company. In Italy, this also resulted in the immediate amendment of the statute into Benefit company, as well as in the continuity of actions and commitment carried out thanks to the “Nespresso for Italy” programme, to support the environmental, social and cultural heritage that makes Italy special, and of which the “From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain” project is part.

Born in 2011 thanks to an agreement with CIAL (National Aluminium Packaging Consortium), Utilitalia and CIC (Italian Composting Consortium), “From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain” allows customers to return their exhausted aluminium capsules to the specific recycling area inside the Nespresso Boutiques and the recycling centres participating in the initiative nationwide, totalling over 140 collection points in 79 Italian cities. Once collected by the separate waste collection service companies, the spent capsules are sent for processing and recovery to a plant in the province of Brescia, where the aluminium is separated from the coffee.

Here the experience of Garm – Gavardo Recupero Metalli, specific for the recovery of new raw materials and for the processing of Nespresso aluminium capsules, allows the treatment and separation of the two materials that make up the exhausted capsule: aluminium, which is sent to foundries for the recycling process that will transform it in new objects (such as pens, bicycles, small knives), and spent coffee, which is sent to a composting plant. Here it is transformed into compost, which is subsequently sold to a paddy field in the province of Novara. The rice produced thanks to this natural fertiliser is then repurchased by Nespresso and finally donated to Banco Alimentare della Lombardia and Banco Alimentare del Lazio, two food banks that help those who need it most. So far, thanks to “From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain”, Nespresso has managed to donate over 4,000 tons of rice, equivalent to over 4 million platefuls of rice, which have made it possible to support around 300,000 people and 1,600 charitable centres every year.

These numbers are poised to grow again in 2022, with the aim of achieving a further increase in the collection and donation of rice to Banco Alimentare in December.

“In 2021, the ‘From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain’ initiative helped us achieve results we are very proud of and that confirm we are on the right path to limit the environmental impact of coffee capsule consumption and encourage aluminium recycling in Italy. We recorded positive numbers once again thanks, in particular, to our customers, the real engine of the ‘From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain’ project, because it is with them that everything begins. Every year they show us that they feel more and more an integral part of this important environmental and social sustainability initiative,” declares Silvia Totaro, Sustainability & Safety Health Environmental Manager of Nespresso Italiana. “The challenge to reduce our impact on the environment is a challenge on which we are actively working. That is why, since 2011, we have invested in Italy over 7.5 million Euro in projects dedicated to the themes of the circular economy and sustainability.

This responsibility towards the planet reflects the commitment to responsible business that has always characterised us. This year it allowed us to obtain B Corp certification and to transform ourselves in Italy into a Benefit Company.”

“The project executed and promoted with Nespresso, for 10 years now, is something our Consortium is truly fully committed to. The initiative, born and developed with enthusiasm and a far-sighted vision, actually anticipated the issue of recycling coffee capsules, well before the topic became of legislative relevance. In this sense, it must be acknowledged that Nespresso understood the environmental need that consumers also brought to the attention of the government. Today, the ‘From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain’ project is continuing and growing, thanks to the network of relationships that CIAL has built over the years in the territory, with the municipalities and local companies that manage municipal waste. It’s a team game that works, with results improving every year. This is what happens when, more generally, we talk about the separate collection of aluminium packaging,” comments Giuseppina Carnimeo, General Manager of CIAL.

In 2021, which cities recorded the most interesting numbers of collected exhausted capsules? The best performing city was Milan, where 220 tons of exhausted capsules were recovered last year, + 28% compared to 2020, followed by Rome which, with 200 tons, has increased the tons of recovered capsules by + 25% compared to 2020. Excellent results were also achieved in Piacenza, Parma and Reggio Emilia: 160 tons, + 18% compared to the previous year, followed by the territory of Como, Brescia and Bergamo, which, with 112 tons of collected exhausted capsules, improved by 31% compared to 2020. Genoa, with over 69 tons, recorded + 17% compared to the previous year, while Venice increased the tons of exhausted capsules recovered by 28%, with 53 tons collected in 2021. Padua and Trieste together collected 46 tons of capsules (+ 38%) in 2021 and Monza almost 42 tons, + 73% when compared to 24 in 2020. On the other hand, over 40 tons were recovered in Varese (+ 9%) while just under 39 in Treviso (+ 2%).

Naples and Palermo recorded an excellent percentage increase: while in 2020 Campania’s main city managed to recycle just over a ton of spent capsules, in 2021 the collection grew to almost 6 tons (+ 324%). The same trend was observed in Palermo, where more than 4,000 kg of capsules were recovered, + 139% compared to 1,740 kg in 2020.

Here is the complete list of tons of spent capsules collected in 2021 by city, with growth data compared to 2020:

  • Milan – 220,600 kg (+ 28%)
  • Rome – 200,540 kg (+ 25%)
  • Piacenza, Parma and Reggio Emilia – 160,680 kg (+ 18%)
  • Como, Brescia and Bergamo – 112,060 kg (+ 31%)
  • Genoa – 69,320 kg (+ 17%)
  • Venice – 53,870 kg (+ 28%)
  • Padua and Trieste – 46,230 kg (+ 38%)
  • Monza – 41,920 kg (+ 73%)
  • Varese – 40,320 kg (+ 9%)
  • Treviso – 38,900 kg (+ 2%)
  • Verona – 26,280 kg (+ 11%)
  • Vicenza – 21,340 kg (+ 29%)
  • Bolzano – 20,740 kg (+ 11%)
  • Trento – 19,400 kg (+ 1%)
  • Sassari – 7,080 kg (+ 27%)
  • Naples – 5,980 kg (+ 324%)
  • Palermo – 4,160 kg (+ 139%)
  • Bari – 3,200 kg (+ 11%)

This year Nespresso is continuing the “Compost in Boutique” initiative aimed at raising awareness among its customers of the common commitment to create a cup of coffee with a positive impact. Starting in June 2022, and throughout the summer, customers who return their exhausted capsules to the Boutiques where the collection service is active (over 60), will receive from Nespresso a 1 kg bag of compost, born from exhausted coffee and symbol of the “From Coffee Bean to Rice Grain” programme. This project wants to stress the importance of customers actively participating in the recycling of Nespresso’s used capsules, a project the company is increasingly committed to: this year the goal is to distribute more 50,000 bags of compost, 22% more than last year and 83% more than in 2020, when the available bags were 30,000. The goal therefore is to achieve greater involvement and awareness on the issue.

“We know that there is still a lot of work to be done to continue to reduce the environmental impact and, for this reason, we will continue to strive to raise awareness, support and educate on these issues, investing as a company on the Italian territory, pushing innovation and supporting all resources and the territory,” concludes Silvia Totaro.

To learn more about Nespresso collection stations and to participate actively in the project, visit: