Dualit’s new coffee machine offers a solution to the pod-recycling dilemma

Dualit eco press during use on counter top
(Image credit: Future)

Pod or single-serve coffee machines offer a fast, easy, and mess-free way to make your favorite drinks. But, if you’ve invested in one of the best coffee makers that takes Nespresso capsules, what do you do with all those used capsules?

Nespresso operates a free recycling scheme, but it’s a bit of a process. First you have to order a recycling bag and then collect your capsules until the bag is full – which means you’ll need to store a whopping 150 used capsules. Next, you’ll need to arrange a collection or, if you have a Nespresso Boutique store nearby, lug the bag of capsules to the store to drop it off. And while we commend Nespresso for offering the scheme, for many people with busy lives, it’s just too much admin and hassle, and the capsules will often end up in the trash.

But with some estimates suggesting that one billion coffee capsules are consumed in the UK alone each year, sending many of those to landfill presents a huge environmental problem.

There are a few alternatives if you want to enjoy your coffee without being overcome with eco anxiety. You could opt for one of the best bean-to-cup coffee machines, removing the need for single-use capsules altogether. However, these big, expensive, and more complicated coffee machines aren’t for everyone. If you’re still set on the convenience of capsules, there are compostable coffee capsules available – Dualit has a range of compostable capsules, as do plenty of other brands, and these are definitely worth seeking out.

But if composting your coffee capsules isn’t an option, Dualit offers another solution. The brand has developed the EcoPress, which makes it easier to recycle standard aluminum capsules in your home recycling.

 What is an EcoPress and how does it work? 

The EcoPress is a small gadget that removes the coffee grounds from the capsule, so that you can add the aluminum part to your recycling and pop the grounds in your food waste bin. You simply put a capsule on the EcoPress and push the lid down on top of it – this essentially turns the capsule inside out, ejecting the coffee grounds into a cup.

It can be used with all Nespresso original-shape capsules, as well as compatible aluminum capsules from other brands, such as Dualit’s own. It’s not suitable for Nespresso Vertuo capsules, which are a different shape.

We tried the EcoPress out, and while it’s not perfect it does get the job done. You’ll need a bit of muscle – it’s tricky to push the EcoPress down with only one hand, and with two hands it still requires a little force. Most of the coffee is forced out and collected in the cup, but some does remain on the capsule, so removing the empty capsule from the EcoPress can be a little messy. However, we think that if you’re set on doing the right thing and reducing what you send to landfill, a few coffee grounds on the counter is a small price to pay.

Dualit EcoPress Duo Max in use

We're using the Dualit EcoPress Duo Max to crush some aluminum capsules (Image credit: Future)

We found that the best way to use it is to wait until your coffee machine is full of used capsules, and then remove them and have a short EcoPress session, so that you recycle several at once, minimizing the mess should you get coffee grounds on the counter. Plus, you can wash the EcoPress and put it away until it’s next needed – did we mention it’s also dishwasher-safe?

Once you’re done, the empty aluminum capsule needs a rinse, and then it can go in your recycling bin. The coffee grounds can go into a food waste bin, home compost, or can simply be sprinkled straight onto the garden.

EcoPress Duo Max with crushed capsules stacked together

This is what you're left with after crushing the aluminum capsules (Image credit: Future)

Aluminum foil is endlessly recyclable, and you can boost the chances that it will get recycled by rinsing off the coffee residues. According to Less Waste, scrunching small foil items such as these capsules into a bigger, tennis ball-sized lump, will make it easier for the recycling machinery to detect it; however that’s easier said than done, and we found it easier to stack several inside each other and then squash them together.

Price and availability

The EcoPress is widely available from Dualit and Amazon as well as other suppliers, although currently it’s only available in the UK, where it’s priced at just £9.99, making it relatively inexpensive if you’re diligent about what you recycle.

Dualit EcoPress with capsule

The Dualit EcoPress costs approx. £10 and is available direct from Dualit of Amazon UK (Image credit: Future)

Dualit is also about to launch the EcoPress Duo Max, a larger EcoPress that can press out two capsules at once, making it ideal for households that get through a lot of capsules. It includes a storage section for up to 30 capsules, allowing you to store them until you’re ready to process them, and the lid of the storage bin can be used to hold the empty capsules, as well as making it easier to rinse them all in one go. The pusher part works in the same way as the smaller model, but it takes a little more effort to push down. The EcoPress Duo Max is larger than the EcoPress so takes up more space on the counter, and in the UK will set you back £19.99 from Dualit.

Dualit EcoPress Max on kitchen counter top

The Dualit EcoPress Max (not yet available to buy) is a larger EcoPress that can push down two capsules at once (Image credit: Future)

Is EcoPress a better option than buying compostable coffee capsules? 

Well, the jury’s out on that one, and it very much depends on the circumstances. If you live in an apartment and don’t have the ability to compost at home, or access to municipal food waste collections for industrial composting, then compostable coffee capsules aren’t really an option.

However, if you can compost them, compostable capsules are likely to be the better, more eco-friendly choice. As hard as we might try, not all recyclable materials end up being recycled, so even after you’ve gone to the effort of removing the coffee grounds from your aluminum capsules and putting them in your recycling bin, there’s still a chance they may not get recycled.

And even if they do get recycled, the trucks use fuel getting them to the recycling plant, where the recycling process requires further energy – though this is 95% less energy than is used for producing aluminum from raw materials.

What’s more, we can’t ignore the fact that there’s a certain irony in buying a plastic gadget that will inevitably end up in landfill itself one day, simply to help you recycle something, when there are compostable alternatives.

But, we understand that for various reasons, many people still buy aluminum capsules, and buying an EcoPress to help you recycle these effectively is far better than sending hundreds straight to landfill every year.

Helen McCue
Freelance Contributor

Helen is a freelance writer who specializes in kitchen appliances and has written for some of the biggest home-related titles around. She has been reviewing small appliances, including blenders, juicers, and multi-cookers, for more than 8 years,  and also upholsters furniture when she's not testing the latest food tech gadgets.