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Coffee capsules at the Costa del Sol recycling centre. SUR
Costa aims to recycle more than eight tonnes of single-use coffee pods and capsules every year
Environment

Costa aims to recycle more than eight tonnes of single-use coffee pods and capsules every year

The aluminium will be melted down and reused, the plastic will be crushed into pellets which are then used to make new materials and the coffee grounds will be used to produce compost for agricultural use

María Albarral

Marbella

Thursday, 28 March 2024, 07:04

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The Mancomunidad association of town halls on the western Costa del Sol has announced that it is going to start to recycle used coffee capsules, the disposal of which has increased exponentially in recent years.

Costa del Sol recycling company Urbaser has signed an agreement with Arecafé, a non-profit organisation set up by 24 coffee-producing companies to provide solutions for the collection and recycling of coffee capsule waste, to collect and recycle the capsules that arrive at the facility.

The president of the Mancomunidad, Manuel Cardeña, explained that "Thousands of coffee capsules are thrown away every day. This waste is very difficult to recover in the treatment plants. Their small size prevents them from being detected by the machinery. Coffee capsules are made of aluminium or plastic. To recycle them correctly, they should be deposited in specific collection points distributed by the manufacturers themselves, as is the case with batteries.”

Wrong container

Currently people mistakenly throw them into the grey general waste or yellow plastics recycling containers. Cardeña went on to say, “The recovery of this waste will allow us to get closer to the objectives set by the European Union, which states that by 2035 only 10 percent of waste generated can be deposited in landfill sites.”

At the moment recycling coffee capsules is carried out manually, although work is already under way to install an induction separator on the single-dose line to recover the capsules mechanically. It is estimated that 170 kilos of capsules will be recycled per week, which means 680 kilos per month, and more than eight tonnes per year.

Cardeña pointed out that "following quality tests carried out by Arecafé recyclers, the coffee capsules selectively recovered by Urbaser at the complex are technically treatable, despite the fact that they are mixed with other waste", and added that "the agreement provides for Arecafé to manage the collection and final treatment of the waste coffee capsules sorted and recovered at the facility for recycling, at no cost to either the Mancomunidad or Urbaser".

Environmental solutions

The president of the Mancomunidad underlined the importance of this joint agreement: "We usually say that recycling is everyone's business, but in the case of coffee capsules it is even more so. It is up to the consumer to ensure that this waste, of which there is so much, can be recycled by taking it to the specific collection points."

He continued, "But we know that this is not always the case and environmental solutions have to be offered. This agreement is one of those solutions. Capsules should not be in the normal waste stream, just as batteries should not be, but they are, and we are here to try to solve this problem.”

Currently, Arecafé, through the Circularcaps network, has more than 4,250 collection points for used coffee capsules throughout Spain. In Andalucía there are around 400. Once the capsules are deposited at the collection points, they are transported to authorised recyclers.

First they are ground up to separate out the coffee inside. Once opened and emptied, they are separated by material: the aluminium is melted down and reused and the plastic is crushed into pellets which are then used to make new materials. The coffee grounds are used to produce compost for agricultural use.

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