Woman taking a coffe with the Blue Circle Coffee Capsule at the Nespresso Machine
Woman taking a coffe with the Blue Circle Coffee Capsule at the Nespresso Machine

Sustainable coffee capsules - It's the certificate that counts

Home-compostable and industrially compostable – two fundamentally different terms that often mistakenly end up in the same pot. Using the example of coffee capsules, ALPLA took a closer look at the biggest differences.

Organic waste with blue circle coffee capsules

Many companies are currently advertising their products as compostable, and therefore sustainable. At first glance, this suggests to consumers that these products degrade easily in nature. But it’s not that simple. There are major differences, especially when it comes to the exact definitions of the terms ‘home-compostable’ and ‘industrially compostable’.

To shed light on the matter, ALPLA took a look at which criteria have to be fulfilled in order to obtain the respective certifications and what the key advantages of a home-compostable product are. This concerns the biological decomposition of the raw material and the decomposition of the end product, as well as the temperatures and duration at which the respective results are expected.

Exceeding the criteria

Home-compostable materials decompose to at least 90 per cent within 12 months when subject to variable conditions, such as those found in compost heaps in your own garden. This means they exceed the criteria for industrially compostable products, which can only be broken down using technology and machinery in a controlled environment.

The home-compostable Blue Circle coffee capsules also go far beyond the industrially compostable level when it comes to the requirements relating to the decomposition of the end product. To be certified as home-compostable, a maximum of 10 per cent of the product may remain in a 2x2 mm sieve fraction under variable conditions after six months. Industrially compostable products meet the criteria in less time, but only under very specific conditions. Outside of these conditions, decomposition takes considerably longer.

Home composting infographics

Different lengths of time

The home-compostable coffee capsule can be disposed of right away in your own compost heap. Since organic waste decomposes in a natural environment at around 20°C, the nutrient-rich soil can be reused immediately afterwards.

In contrast, industrially compostable material takes a longer journey from disposal to becoming reusable compost. After being transported to the organic waste facility, the material is prepared, crushed and processed in a controlled composting process with regular repositioning. The finished compost can only be sold after a final post-treatment and quality control.

Industrial composting infographics

Different lengths of time

The home-compostable coffee capsule can be disposed of right away in your own compost heap. Since organic waste decomposes in a natural environment at around 20°C, the nutrient-rich soil can be reused immediately afterwards.

In contrast, industrially compostable material takes a longer journey from disposal to becoming reusable compost. After being transported to the organic waste facility, the material is prepared, crushed and processed in a controlled composting process with regular repositioning. The finished compost can only be sold after a final post-treatment and quality control.