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Hamburg's initiatives for tackling scourge of paper cups

Reusable coffee cups, discount systems and free water - novel ways of tackling rubbish

More and more initiatives are emerging in Hamburg to tackle the scourge of paper cups. At present, around 60 million coffee-to-go cups are used annually in Hamburg alone and over 3 billion disposable cups are used across Germany – meaning such cups have an average life cycle of a mere 15 minutes. All kinds of resources are used up and the cups are often strewn across streets and public spaces.

El Rojito’s environment-friendly cups

To tackle the waste, El Rojito launched a refill project in November 2016. Customers pay a deposit and receive a reusable coffee cup, which can be returned to all participating coffee shops. Similar projects are being launched in Berlin and Rosenheim as well. Roman Witt of El Rojito said: “When we hit on the idea of introducing a reusable coffee cup, our catering partners were really enthusiastic.” The environment-friendly cups are made of lignin – an organic polymer sourced from environmentally certified forests. The cups are suitable for hot and cold drinks and can be borrowed for EUR 1.50. For hygienic reasons, customers keep the lids. Meanwhile, around 7,500 reusable cups are available in Hamburg and 25 partners including the vegan Happenpappen in Eimsbüttel, the Herr Max Restaurant on Schulterblatt and the “Kaffee Stark” in St. Pauli are taking part in the project. Witt noted: “It would be great to have a standard system in Hamburg in which everyone participates.“

Discounts for personal cups – “Kehr.Wieder”

In late 2017, Hamburg’s Ministry of the Environment and Energy launched the so-called “Kehr.Wieder” campaign to tackle the rising mounds of paper cups. People are encouraged to bring their own cups in return for a discount of EUR 0.10 to 30 cents on coffee. Around 250 cafés, bakeries and bistros have joined the alliance. The campaign is based on a commitment that reads: “Together, we wish to make an effective contribution towards the reduction of coffee to go cups.” Members include Backwerk, McDonalds, Tchibo and the Bäckerei Vollstädt. Partners are identifiable by a sticker and an interactive map gives an overview of those in the alliance. Hamburg Airport recently launched a similar system called #MyCupMyCoffee.

Free water refilling stations

Since late March 2017, “Refill Hamburg” has been going to great efforts to reduce the amount of plastic packaging in Hamburg. Thirsty people can locate free water refilling stations using “Refill Hamburg’s” interactive map. Shoppers no longer have to buy yet another plastic bottle of water. Stations are identifiable by a sticker. Stephanie Wiermann, a web designer and initiator of the project, urged: “Let’s all avoid plastic waste and make Hamburg cleaner, protect our environment, drink good water and encourage people to live with less plastic.” The project is modelled on Britain’s “Refill Bristol“ that launched in 2015 and now provides over 200 free water stations. Meanwhile, cafés, bars and businesses in Hamburg are taking part in the movement, which has since spread all over Germany. More than 60 cities now offer 1,000 refill stations. Hamburg alone has around 100 refill stations. Wiermann told Hamburg News: “In 2018, I hope more people realize how easily unnecessary plastic waste can be avoided. Our tap water is the best drinking water and can be enjoyed at home and out and about simply.”

Sources and further information:
www.refillit-elrojito.de / Refill-it-Partner werden
www.refill-deutschland.de/hamburg / Refill-Station melden
www.hamburg.de/kehrwieder / Kehr.Wieder-Partner werden
www.duh.de

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