GreenLution closes the loop on coffee capsules


Säntis, Wipf, and Optima have combined their expertise in single serve coffee packaging to develop the sustainable and ecological GreenLution Future Capsule System.

Sustainability requires collaboration – people, businesses, and governments working together to achieve a closed-loop solution.

When it comes to single serve coffee, it’s not enough for the capsule to be recyclable or compostable, the laminates or sealings and equipment that handles it need to do so proficiently and ecologically.

That is why it took three companies experienced in the single serve coffee sector – Säntis Packaging, Wipf, and Optima – partnering to develop the GreenLution Future Capsule System. 

GreenLution promotes a sustainable circular system, which ranges from the production and use of coffee capsules to the recycling of the packaging material. Säntis, Wipf, and Optima jointly developed systems in their respective areas of expertise to help the coffee industry package its single serve products sustainably and securely.

“Our three businesses have formed a strong partnership over the years, inventing many solutions and acquiring much business together,” says Marco Reiss, Head of Sales and Business Development at Säntis Packaging.

“With GreenLution, all three partners shared the same concept and basic idea. Because we know each other and work together very well, we were able to start immediately to develop a new ecological solution for the coffee industry. It only took one and a half years from when we started to receiving our first certification in June 2020.”

All three businesses can boast decades of experience in the single serve coffee market, with Säntis alone producing coffee capsules and pods since the early 1990s, not long after the launch of Nespresso. Over the years, the packaging manufacturer has expanded its portfolio to include thermoforming and producing pods and capsules for a variety of machines and formats. 

Its contribution to GreenLution is the Recy+ Cap, a lightweight, recyclable, and high-functioning polypropylene (PP) coffee capsule produced with 50 per cent bio-based material.

“Not only are these capsules recyclable, they are not made with exclusively virgin materials. Half of the plastic is derived with food oil, which would usually be thrown away, and in this way are better for the planet to produce than other capsule alternatives,” Reiss says.

The capsules are multi-layered to provide a full barrier against oxygen without impacting its functionality, and the PP material is lightweight compared to other ecological capsule alternatives.

“Everybody is asking for more sustainable coffee capsules, but also to have them more lightweight without impacting their integrity,” Reiss says. “If you delve into something more lightweight, it means reducing the amount of overall material in the capsule, which can cause problems in the brewing chamber. It’s very difficult to pull off correctly, but the real hard part is doing it in a way that will work with every compatible coffee machine on the market.

“But Säntis can do this perfectly. Our capsules are mostly thermoformed, not injection moulded, so we are able to reduce their thickness without sacrificing their ability to preserve the coffee inside.”

Wipf specialises in the development of high-barrier laminates, like the capsule seals that protect the coffee from oxygen exposure. It brings WicoGreenLine to GreenLution, a flexible monomaterial laminate sealing that complements Recy+ Cap and was developed for PP recycling.

Despite being free of aluminium, BPA, PVC, and PVDC, WicoGreenLine offers a high degree of aroma protection and long shelf life, serving as a strong barrier against oxygen, water vapour, and mineral oils. The foil is optimal with common printing methods, can be deployed in two- or three-ply laminates, and is designed for perfect compatibility with the capsule filling system of Optima.

An expert in manufacturing filling and sealing equipment, through GreenLution Optima offers a sustainably designed packaging system based on its Optima CFL model. The machine focuses on sustainable production with minimum resources, combining high filling accuracy with reduced space requirements, optimised film utilisation, low energy and gas consumption with maximum efficiency, and a minimum production reject rate below 0.05 per cent. The manufacturer can even retrofit and optimise existing plants with the updated equipment at any time.

“You can’t buy a sustainable packaging line without thinking about what kind of capsule you will use, and vice versa. GreenLution is a perfect solution for coffee brands and copackers because they can get everything they need from the one hand,” Reiss explains.

“They do not have to waste a lot of time and money finding the right partners, which machine to buy, or what film and capsule producers to source from. They can come to us for their capsules, Optima for their equipment, or Wipf for their film, and we will connect them with the rest of the solutions they need.”

Recy+ Caps are cyclos-HTP certified as recyclable, and though recycling systems differ from country to country, the single-material capsules can be disposed of through mainstream recycling channels in many countries, such as Austria and Germany. The capsules are then used to create new products.

“Recyclers needs to be able to sort out different materials, and the capsules are [near-infrared] detectable, meaning the capsules are identifiable for inclusion in PP recycling streams,” Reiss says.

“We receive some requests for paper capsule packaging, but the fibres can only be recycled so many times. The benefit of plastic is that it can be reused a million times.”

Thanks to the experience of its founding companies, GreenLution can be tailored to work with a number of capsule varieties from Nespresso and Dolce Gusto to Keurig or Caffitaly. 

The first coffee brand produced with the GreenLution system will hit the market by the end of 2021. Säntis, Wipf, and Optima will present GreenLution at HostMilano in October, where the wider coffee and food industries will experience the first up-close look of the future capsule system.

“There’s increasing demand for coffee capsules, with people buying machines and drinking coffee at home rather than travelling to shops and cafés,” Reiss says.

“We also know there is a demand for sustainable alternatives, but that needs to be achieved without losing out on quality. GreenLution meets this need.”

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This article was first published in the September/October edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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