Sainsbury’s claims it is “widely believed” that aluminium coffee pods are too small to be captured for recycling at the kerbside, other than through specialist schemes.
The supermarket says it “challenged” the industry and discovered that waste management companies had facilities that could capture and recycle these smaller items, provided they were empty of coffee grounds.
Claire Hughes, director of product and innovation at Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re always looking for new ways to help our customers live more sustainably at home, and key to that is making sure any changes are small and easy to implement.
“That’s why we decided to challenge the notion that aluminium coffee pods can’t be recycled and with consumers more concerned about the planet than ever before, it felt like a natural place to look.
“Whilst we might be the first retailer to label our own brand coffee pods as recyclable, it’s important to understand that many aluminium pods are in fact recyclable. We hope others follow suit and change their packaging to raise awareness and encourage recycling.”
The own brand pods bearing the label became available in stores yesterday (12 September).
Sainsbury’s says it teamed up with coffee pod manufacturer Dualit and the recycling labels company On-Pack Recycling Label Ltd (OPRL) to prove that aluminium coffee pods could be recycled at home.
The supermarket says its label will “make clear” the importance of emptying the pod and rinsing it before placing it in the recycling bin.
In a further effort to ensure its customers clean their pods before recycling them, Sainsbury’s is to launch the ‘Dualit EcoPress’, a device that separates coffee from the aluminium, on 7 November.
While customers could do this themselves with a teaspoon, Sainsbury’s says, the EcoPress makes it “quicker and easier”.
Once the coffee has been separated, people can put the remaining grounds in home compost bins, kerbside food waste bins, or their garden, the supermarket says.
Coffee pod recycling hit the news in April when a “first of its kind” scheme called Podback was launched (see letsrecycle.com story).
Formed in November 2020 by brands Nestle and Jacobs Douwe Egberts UK, the scheme allows people to recycle pods either at the kerbside or through specialist collections.
Rick Hindley, the former executive director of the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), joined Podback to take up the same role with the scheme in May (see letsrecycle.com story). In an opinion piece for letsrecycle.com published in July, Mr Hindley said the launch of the scheme was intended to “streamline” the coffee pod recycling process for local authorities (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, in its 9 September statement, Sainsbury’s said it was “not the case” that coffee pods required recycling through specialist collection schemes.