Promoting responsible aluminium

08 October 2010 | Article

IUCN and Nespresso, the European market leader in portionned coffee, have signed a five year partnership agreement to promote sustainability in aluminium value chains.

IUCN and Nespresso have signed a five year partnership agreement with the objectives of:

  • creating a market differentiation for sustainability performance throughout the aluminum value chain;
  • measuring, and strengthening the ecological outcomes of the Nespresso Ecolaboration commitments; and
  • exploring new business models which are designed to minimize Nespresso’s footprint on the environment.

The first year of the work programme in the IUCN Nespresso agreement focuses on aluminum, as the material used by Nespresso for their coffee capsules. Looking upstream, IUCN and Nespresso are working together to promote the creation of a “Responsible Aluminum” product which demonstrates measured and verified progress in implementing sustainability standards and practices in the aluminum industry. This involves convening companies from the aluminum value chain (from bauxite miners to recycling companies), interested stakeholders from civil society (environmental, human rights and labour organizations), and others (academics, governments, and international organizations) to agree a set of principles and criteria and develop a credible verification scheme for the aluminum industry.

At the same time IUCN and Nespresso are working to expand the recycling networks available to Nespresso capsules in key markets. A unique quality of aluminum is its potential to be fully recycled while still maintaining its properties, and this recyclability is infinite. Recycling aluminum takes a fraction of the energy of producing aluminum from bauxite, and is thus an integral part of the sustainability of aluminum value chains. Yet much of the aluminum used for packaging is lost in our waste streams. Nespresso has been testing methods of capturing small quantities of aluminum (e.g. pet food containers, bottle tops, and capsules) from packaging sorting centres in France using a piece of equipment called an Eddy Current. The initial findings from this work indicate that this may be a solution which could be replicated across packaging material sorting systems throughout Europe, and could significantly increase the amount of aluminum captured for recycling – thus displacing some of the demand for aluminum produced from raw materials.

IUCN is engaging with its Members and partners to explore how changes in policy frameworks can promote such recycling solutions. At this moment, IUCN is looking to identify experienced country specific partners among its membership and network to work on influencing strategy for recycling policies at national and EU level. This work will be done in close collaboration with Nespresso. It is envisaged that this type of work will be supported financially by Nespresso providing some benefits to the collaborating partners involved with the initiative.