Recycled Coffee Capsules

Recycled Coffee Capsules

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when life was simple and the only decisions we needed to make regarding our daily fix of caffeine were “instant or percolated”, “black or white”, “with or without sugar”?

How times have changed! Nowadays we have a dazzling array of flavours and styles to chose from when visiting our favourite Barista. I did once try a cinnamon and syrup latte in M&S and have never forgotten how vile that was…..give me a straight forward, simple latte every time! On the other hand, if you like your coffee more exotic, there are plenty of rather weird (and probably not so wonderful?) tastes to explore. The Farm Girl Cafe in Portobello Road could be the place to visit if you fancy a black charcoal latte made with activated charcoal, date syrup and cashew milk. Or how about their blue Butterfly Matcha made with organic blue matcha powder (now there’s an interesting ingredient to look up) with almond milk or their most famous creation, the rose latte (a double shot with rose water infused milk and petals)….there is obviously a market for it but personally I think I’ll pass!

Of course we no longer have to go out to get our fix of posh coffee thanks to the popularity of the domestic barista machines and the single use coffee capsule. Although many of these are said to be recyclable, according to Nestle, only around one third of their capsules (Nespresso, Dolce Gusto, Tassimo) were being returned to the manufacturer for recycling in 2020. The rest were ending up in landfill where it’s predicted they will take 500 years to breakdown!

Photo source: http://www.johnlewis.com

A “not for profit” organisation in the UK called Podback are now working with local councils and other organisations to make it easier and more convenient to recycle our capsules with roadside collections alongside other household recycling. Consumers also have the option of leaving them at over 6,500 Yodel drop off points and we should soon (if it’s not happening already) have them collected by supermarkets when they drop off our online shopping.

That’s all sounding good but many of us are finding more creative ways to recycle our coffee pods, albeit on a far smaller scale. One use is to add them as interesting, textural ‘inclusions’ to a felting project. The first time I saw this done was in 2018 when I attended a Felted jewellery workshop with the wonderful German tutor Ricarda Assmann. Although we were working with fabrics, not capsules, three of the necklaces Ricarda brought as workshop samples had the aluminium crushed pods in them. At that time I didn’t have any capsules but the contrast between the hard texture of the metal and the soft feel of the fibres really appealed to me.

Another fabulous feltmaker, Judit Pocs, created this enormous “Gate” wallhanging in response to a commission from the Feltmakers Association. It is something like 2mtrs tall and studded with crushed capsules in a multitude of colours. Judit also makes beautiful rings with them and teaches the technique for making these in her online workshop.

The Gate by Judit Pocs
The Gate detail showing the capsules
Felted capsule rings by Judit Pocs

The year before I attended Ricarda’s jewellery workshop I had the idea to recycle my collection of Tektura acrylic wallpaper samples as inclusions in my pendants (I never throw away anything that might have a use in the future!) It’s a simple process but very effective, wet felting the “waterproof” paper discs between pieces of prefelt. Four years on, and with those papers almost depleted, I’m now starting to use coffee capsules instead. Being thin aluminium they can be crushed by hand (that’s how I did the gold one in the ring) or they will flatten more easily with a little persuasion from a hammer, in which case I find it best to cover them with fabric first to avoid the hammer scratching off the colour. I’ve also started using them in some of my brooches.

I’m sure some of our readers will have tried Felting with capsules and I know Ann did some experimenting with them which you can see here, has anyone else tried this? They could look great in 3D pieces such as bags, sculptures, etc. I did a google search and didn’t find any other images of felt with capsules but I’m sure there’s lots out there somewhere. I did find zillions of “non felted” ideas for recycling on Pinterest, Etsy, YouTube, etc and websites including ecogreenlove.com, these are just a few…..

Nespresso Pendant and Earrings
Necklace
Floral Arrangement

There are so many inventive ways to create with coffee capsules and with Christmas fast approaching they could be used for decorations or even nativity scenes like these found on Pinterest…….

I will leave you with one of the most impressive uses I came across which was the stunning 2017 catwalk collection by Birmingham designer Rhys Ellis. Rhys studied Fashion Design at Birmingham University and, as part of his course, he spent a year in Italy studying at the Politecnico di Milano design school alongside world-renowned tailor, Guiltiero Fornetti.

“It was while I was in one of the markets that I saw a lady making very simple jewellery from these coffee pods and something just clicked and I knew that I could create dresses this way.“ “I also liked the idea of using material that would otherwise be thrown away.”

Photo source: http://www.comunicaffe.com

I won’t be making anything that dramatic but I am planning to make lots more pendants and brooches. I might just add some capsules to my next felted bag too. If you’ve done anything with them we would love to hear about your projects in the “comments” and you could always post them on the Forum.

29 thoughts on “Recycled Coffee Capsules

  1. It’s amazing how a simple cup of coffee has been transformed into a highly profitable business and we’ve all been persuaded to buy all manner of coffee related items that were not necessary before!

    However, these things are here so why not use the leftovers?

    The floral arrangement is so pretty – especially the foxgloves.

    Your pendants are gorgeous and the one you used as a brooch on the ruffle scarf makes for a very ‘classy’ look indeed.

    Like the tip about covering the hammer with fabric.

    1. Thanks Lyn. I learnt the hard way about covering with fabric before hammering, although you can get an interesting look when you touch up the damaged paintwork with Sharpies! That flower arrangement is pretty wowie.

  2. I’m from Canada and I’m’old school’ when it comes to my coffee. That said, I love these creations…exceptional ideas. I was unaware that these pods came in tin-like material. I’m only familiar with the basic white plastic capsule. I’d love to get my hands on the coloured metal ones shown here. Any suggestions?

    1. I don’t use the capsules myself as I’m old school like you Suzanne but it’s worth asking neighbours and friends or trying social media. I put an ad on my towns Facebook page asking if anyone could let me have their used capsules and a lady came round next day with a huge bag full. I’m sure you will find some and have fun with them.

  3. Some of those projects are so inspiring. I have made quite a few brooches and pendants with them using the techniques I learnt with Aniko Boros.

    1. The nice thing about learning a technique like that is you can use all sorts of different inclusions, large fancy buttons and beads work well too….nothing is safe in our house!

  4. Great post. There are so many talented people finding ways to up cycle things. Your jewellery is beautiful. I just acquired a small hammer for working with the capsules. I was thinking I should glue a felt pad to it to protect the finish.

    1. That’s a great idea Ann! At least doing that means you can’t forget to cover the aluminium. When I was doing the research I was surprised at how old some of the images/posts were, I hadn’t realised folk have been creating with these things for years!

  5. I don’t drink coffee but I’m sure I could find some of these if I decide to give it a try. I’m glad that people are recycling them with fantastic results. Your jewelry is lovely. It’s good you found something to replace the wallpaper you have used up. Have fun!

    1. Thanks Ruth, I thought it could make an interesting theme for a F&F challenge but then realised that would depend on folk being able to source them. I got mine by placing an ad for used capsules on the towns Facebook page.

    2. That sounds like an excellent idea Karen – no need to restrict it to coffee capsules though, it could be a challenge to incorporate something that was destined for landfill. That said it would not be much of a challenge for some of us, my other half is forever rolling his eyes at me while I am retrieving some “gem” from the bin that he this is rubbish. 🙂

  6. Karen, I am a fiber lover from New Mexico. I and a friend started a Mixed Media Fiber Artist group which has its’ own blog and I am now on the Board of Directors for the Albuquerque Fiber Arts Council. I was wondering if I could forward your wonderful post to both groups to post on their blogs? I love it and would, of course, give you your due credit. ~Donna Dixon

    1. Of course you can Donna, thank you for asking and I will take that as a compliment! I would love to see your blog, would you like to post a link to it?

  7. If anyone wants to do inclusions therer are some fundamental basics based on the fact you need to leave room for SHRINKAGE! You can’t just wrap something up with wool and hope it will felt tight!

  8. As I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself – I watched the video that Judit Pocs made for the IFA showing the whole process of making the gate. It was fascinating and started me thinking of having a go with the pods. Unfortunately, as an old school coffee drinker too, I didn’t know that there were different types of pods and a friend with a coffee machine donated a bagful. Then I found out that there are plastic ones too. I’m sure I could get some by putting a request on the Trashnothing site here in the UK. You can get almost anything that way – it’s how I got the beanbags, the beans from which I’m intending to use for octopus tentacles (don’t ask – I’ll tell you all about it after our Panto next February)

    Your description of the “coffees” available in Portobello Road makes me glad I don’t get there any more – they sound disgusting.

    A lot of great information here Karen thanks.
    Ann

  9. Love these upcycling ideas, Karen. Your jewellery looks amazing with the little added aluminium, and I’m never not amazed by all the creativity out there when it comes to utilising an item in an “unusual way.”

  10. That dress looks incredible, but is it comfortable? I have reached an age where comfort wins over glamour 🙂

  11. Although I don’t use coffee capsules, they are very effective in felted jewellery. It’s good to know that you can use them in something. You can also use sweet wrappers. I haven’t tried these techniques yet, but it is on my list. 🙂

    1. I just love to mix textures and adding different inclusions is an interesting way to achieve this. I’m sure you’ll have fun when you give it a try.

  12. Thanks for the really inspiring piece Karen. I’m not a coffee drinker but my local Community Council kindly did a callout and people came forward with the capsules for me. I do love the smell of the stuff so spent a number of sunny days emptying out the capsules. So far I have used one!! lol

    I love the ear rings and pendant – but your brooches are absolutely fabulous darling though way too classy for Eddie and Patsy. Perfectly offset by your gorgeous scarf.

    Speaking of coffee, I am a great fan of an Irish comedic trio Foil Arms and Hog. One of them taught one of our younger relatives before discovering his true and way more lucrative calling. Here is their sketch on coffee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp0TQaK1BnA (cut and paste if the link doesn’t work).

    1. Oh Helene, thanks for that link. I’ve just watched several of Foil Arms & Hog sketches and they are so funny! Particularly enjoyed “An Irish Intervention”.
      Glad you found my post inspiring, it was a very last minute idea which encouraged me to try a ring and finish the pendants that had been hanging around for a while.
      Going back to F, A & H now!!

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