Consumers are increasingly discerning about making sustainable choices and brands have to keep up. In a new attempt to find creative uses for the billions of single-use coffee pods that are discarded around the world, Nespresso partnered with Swedish start-up Vélosophy to make a bicycle out of recycled pods. Each RE:CYCLE bike is made out of roughly 300 pods and dons the distinctive purple hue of the Arpeggio blend. 1,000 bikes were produced as part of the limited-edition collaboration, and they retail for $1,446.
RE:CYCLE was initiated by Jimmy Östholm, a former IKEA communications manager, serial bike entrepreneur, and founder of Vélosophy. Östholm had used recycled aluminum from unknown sources in previous bicycle designs but wanted to encapsulate the circular economy in RE:CYCLE by being able to tell people exactly where the material originated. The main challenge was figuring out how to make the lightweight aluminum used in the capsules rigid enough to meet bicycle manufacturing standards. RE:CYCLE spent two years in development.
Designed with eco-conscious coffee drinkers in mind, the seven-gear city bike has a few details that nod to its origins: the Arpeggio purple frame, a bell shaped in the form of a Nespresso capsule, and a front carrying basket made of steam-bended wood with two cup holders.
Recent statistics show that one in three households owns a single-use coffee maker and an estimated 56 billion single-use capsules end up in landfills each year where they take roughly 150 years to decompose. Their environmental impact has long been under scrutiny. Even though recycling aluminum is an easier, less energy-intensive process than recycling plastics, only 35% of all manufactured aluminum ends up being recycled, and that's in large part because consumers tend to throw aluminum products in the trash rather than the recycling bin.
Nespresso has been ramping up efforts to make recycling easier and bolster its sustainability agenda. In the US, Nespresso offers pre-paid recycling bags in 48 states, allowing users to mail back capsules to be recycled. Alternatively, consumers can drop their bags off at one of 88,000 UPS drop-off locations, or one of 500 collection points at Nespresso retail partners. The capsules go to a certified recycling plant that separates the aluminum shells from the coffee grounds, which are made into compost, topsoil or turned into biogas. Still, the company's most recent recycling rate was estimated at a rather paltry 25%.
The driving idea behind the collaboration was to create a product that would encourage users to recycle their capsules. "Through our collaboration with Vélosophy, we're illustrating to coffee lovers the potential of recycling their aluminum Nespresso capsules," said Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nespresso, in a statement. "We have been inspired by working with Vélosophy, and I hope the RE:CYCLE bicycle inspires people to recycle." Previously, Nespresso partnered with Victorinox to make Swiss army knives out of recycled capsules and French stationery brand Caran D'Ache to create a ballpoint pen.
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This story only serves to illustrate the rediculousness of Nespresso and many more of our conveniance driven habits.
This article aims to present this as a positive design, helping the planet by recycling, but this is very much the opposite.
The only merit of this project is to illustrate very graphically the scandalous levels of waste produced by Nespresso capsules... Think about it. If you drink only 1 cup a day (and if you are like me the real figure is much closer to 5 or 6!) it will take you less than a year to use enough aluminium to make a bike !!!
Get yourself a washable filter and a kettle (or a fancy pants Jura expresso machine with integrated grinder if you have to!) and get better coffee, cheaper and with a much smaller impact on the environment!
Recycling is important, but it is not a solution in itself. Remember the correct order:
If you are at all an environmentally concious coffee drinker, you do not use Nespresso products at all. The real problem here is the unecessary and wasteful method that their products work. All the recycled aluminium has to be collected and shipped to the factory making the bike, so that also has a CO2 cost. Why don't we just make coffee the right way and bikes the right way. There's no benefit or motivation for the consumer to use either product here. A good second hand bike and a kettle and coffee filter is all you need. See for example George Sowden's excellent simple coffee jugs that make better coffee. Then we only have to look at a way to re-use the old coffee and there are already several products than can be made from this material which Core77 has covered previously.
While it's noble to draw attention to recycling pods, it's a bit ridiculous to claim "This Limited-Edition Bike is Made Out of 300 Nespresso Pods" Considering the bike looks to be steel, what exactly is made from the recycled aluminum pods? If each pod is around 1.2 grams of aluminum, 300 of these only produces 360 grams of aluminum, that's .36kg or around 0.8lbs. So what on the bike is actually made from nespresso pods, the stem spacers?