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Talking about Re-fè, here is our company and what we are doing to fight coffee waste.


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Coffee capsules are not recycled properly

Most coffee capsules are not recycled properly after their use, taking about 500 years to degrade in landfills and negatively impacting the environment.
The problem lies not only in the large amount of waste, but also in the loss of materials with high potential in terms of economic value. Aluminum itself is a material that can be recycled countless times, therefore, if disposed properly, it can maintain its market value by lowering the environmental impact of its extraction.

In addition, coffee grounds are rich in nutritional properties such as antioxidants, potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, copper and magnesium. Therefore, they can be used for secondary purposes such as personal, home, plant and garden care; the real waste would be to consider them as waste.

In order to enable proper disposal of capsules, coffee capsules and coffee grounds should be separated from each other and not end up in the “mixed waste” trash.

To mitigate the problem, some leading companies in the industry took first steps in order to offer collection points for their capsules in major city centers. However, this single initiative is not strong enough in a country like Italy, made up of small towns and rural areas where widespread coverage is needed. Here, the distribution of do-it-yourself tools and solutions for recycling makes it possible to reach even the most remote areas, lowering the environmental impact of single-use coffee capsules.

Re-fè history

Federico and Gilberto Girotto came across these challenges in 2021, tackling the problem of recycling coffee capsules in their daily lives. The effort to try to manually recycle the capsules was daily: on the one hand, starting the car to reach the nearest collection center, on the other, the manual action of separating the packaging from the coffee grounds with the help of a knife. Time-consuming actions.

The journey began with this certainty. At the beginning of 2022 Re-fè was born, a young Italian startup whose goal is to give new value to coffee waste, transforming it into a new resource following the circular economy principles of the European Green Deal and of the New European Bauhaus, starting precisely from single-use capsules.

From there, a step-by-step project and its development process began, including research, prototyping, design and communication.

Federico Girotto, co-founder and designer of Re-fè, began to flesh out the ideas with the support of Riccardo Sponchiado, materials engineer, and Valentina Lovat, scientist and environmental sustainability expert. The production of a prototype in limited quantities, which quickly found great interest from the public, allowed them to gather feedback to improve the product and welcome new members to the team, including Marco Santomauro and Lorenzo Donadel, who immediately contributed to the project.

This is how Re-fè Original was born, the first Re-fè-branded tool for separating aluminum coffee capsules from grounds, with a simple gesture. It features modularity, use of low-impact materials and local production with 3D printing. The biggest challenge was local production, in order to maintain total control and offer transparency on the entire supply chain. We believed in it all the way by creating collaborations with Italian realities such as FILOALFA®, for the supply of the recycled bio-plastic material; Fluire Atelab, an innovation and 3D design laboratory in Venice that supports us daily in production; and SuperForma for the recycling of Re-fè waste and of products that have reached the end of their life cycle.

Re-fè Original was designed as a tool aimed at solving a fast-growing problem. We make the recycling action a pleasurable time by engaging and making consumers aware of their actions after a coffee break, since this is the fastest way to achieve both short- and long-term results. We at Re-fè feel responsible for bringing a positive change.

Re-fè Original, available for purchase at, is available in the aluminum capsules version, but we are already working to expand compatibility to other formats and materials.

Beyond products

In addition to developing physical tools, Re-fè contributes to the creation of circular neighborhood communities and works in researching new natural materials created from coffee grounds to extend the life of all elements.
In 2022, he was involved in Legambiente Cinisello Balsamo’s “Youth of the Green Economy” educational project to give lectures on circular economy, Agenda 2030, and on green entrepreneurship to local high school students.

Re-fè is also part of the Manifattura Milano community project, an initiative of Milan City Council’s Department of Economic Development and Labor Policies, implemented by the Urban Economy, Fashion and Design Project Directorate, which aims at promoting craftsmanship, making, self-production and urban manufacturing as strategic sectors for inclusive innovation, economic growth and job creation.

A growing market

Coffee capsules are increasingly being used by consumers. The data speak for themselves: the market for coffee capsules is growing rapidly worldwide. The report¹  published by The Business Research Company in 2021 confirmed the growth trend of the global coffee capsules and pods market with projected growth from about $14 million in 2019 to $21 million by the end of 2025.

Growing awareness of high antioxidant properties and chemical composition associated with coffee, work rhythms, changing consumer tastes, and the increasing popularity of instant soft drinks in offices and restaurants are driving the growth of the coffee capsules market in Europe, market leader in 2019 followed by North America. This growth is also supported by the rising awareness of younger generations towards the effects of alcohol and of high sugar content drinks, which led to the search for soft and low-sweetened beverages.

In Italy only, each person consumes about 4.6kg of coffee per year, with a forecasted increase to 5kg by 2025. Despite the importance of the espresso machines industry, annual production of coffee pods and capsules has been increasing since 2003. In fact, coffee capsules reduce the time and effort required to brew a cup of coffee compared to more traditional methods.

The team:

Federico Girotto – Founder and Designer
Marco Santomauro – Financial Management
Valentina Lovat – Sustainability
Riccardo Sponchiado – Materials engineer
Lorenzo Donadel – Accounting

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