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COLEP Packaging and INEGI develop new, more sustainable coffee capsule

26 September 2023
It's estimated that more than 50 billion coffee capsules are produced each year and around 75% of them end up in landfills. A problem that received the attention of COLEP Packaging, one of the most relevant companies in the aerosol market in Europe and the Iberian leader in general line packaging, which challenged INEGI to develop a solution to mitigate the environmental impact of this product.

This is how the ECO-CÁPSULA project was born, which also has the support of NEWCOFFEE, one of the main operators in the coffee market in Portugal. The aim was to develop metallic capsules, made of ultra-thin steel and 100% recoverable by conventional collection and recycling systems, without the need for special collection or alteration of treatment systems.

As Carlos Pinto, responsible for the project at INEGI, explains, "the major advance compared to existing aluminum or polymer solutions will be full recycling, that is, without the need for specific selective collection programs or additional work for recycling. The ferromagnetic properties of the chosen material facilitate this task and the innovative selective embrittlement solutions have made it possible to overcome the usual limitations of using these materials in this type of application".

The new capsules were developed to be compatible with Nespresso® coffee machines but also with other equipment and capsules already on the market, in the same way that the principles that were the basis of development can be extended to other formats and types of coffee packaging.

Regarding the industrialization process, José Oliveira, responsible for the project at COLEP Packaging, explains that they are currently "evaluating the possibilities for the product to enter the market, through interaction with potential users of the solution”, since compatibility with current system used by the industry allows the rapid introduction of the product to the market.

The concept of circular economy was the cornerstone of the project, and the aim was to demonstrate that it is possible to find a viable solution, at an environmental and economic level, for the reuse of waste.

INEGI made an important contribution to the product development process, namely supporting proof of concept, carrying out numerical simulations and sensorized tests, and life cycle analysis (LCA) and sustainability.

The project 'ECO-CÁPSULA - Development of single-dose, metallic and 100% recyclable capsules', a co-promotion between COLEP Packaging and INEGI, was co-financed by Portugal 2020, through the European Regional Development Fund.

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