Germany’s cities embrace reusable coffee cup deposit schemes to tackle waste

Cities across Germany are aiming to reduce coffee cup waste by providing cafe and coffee shop customers with reusable coffee cup deposit schemes.

In Freiburg, The Freiburg Cup, a reusable coffee cup made from dishwasher-proof plastic that can be obtained from participating outlets, has proven to be popular, especially among students, since launching last November.

The cup, which can be obtained in exchange for a deposit of €1, can be used hundreds of times before being returned.

Local councils provide the Freiburg Cups, which are washed in the cafés and bakeries that have signed up to the scheme before being made available for redistribution to the public. Because of the state support, both participating businesses and consumers “do not incur any costs” (apart from losing your €1 deposit if you lose your cup), according to Freiburg’s mayor, Gerda Stuchlik.

Around 100 stores in the city centre now participate in the scheme since launching last November.

With 2.8 billion single-use coffee cups being sent to landfill every year in Germany, and 320,000 disposable cups being handed over to customers every hour, the problem of coffee cup waste in Germany has become more and more apparent in recent years.

In Hamburg, customers pay €1.50 to obtain a black Refill It! cup made from biodegradable, plant-based lignin. They fill it up with the beverage of their choice at one of 11 cafes participating in the programme. When it’s empty, they can fill it up again or return it to any shop in the network, where it gets rinsed — and where they get their money back. There is also the option for customers to buy their own fitted lid, so they don’t have to worry about where the rim of the shared mug has been.

Last year environmentalists proposed taxing disposable cups so more people would bring reusable ones, but that effort failed in part due to opposition from the German coffee lobby. It claimed that if consumers refilled multi-use mugs then this would lead to hygiene problems and germs accumulating around coffee dispensers.

Berlin recently launched RECUP, a simple reusable coffee cup sharing system, which has been rolled out across the country.

Designed for those who have “forgotten their own reusable coffee cup at home” or “just can’t be bothered to lug it around all day”RECUP offers a solution. Made from recycled plastic, RECUP claim that the use of polypropylene is “the most sustainable alternative for a reusable cup right now”.

RECUP users pay a €1 deposit for the cup and can find participating cafes, bakeries and stores by using the RECUP app.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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