Coffee to go with a green conscience
Freiburg is the first German city to introduce a deposit on reusable coffee cups. The Freiburg Cup not only reduces waste; it also saves coffee lovers the trouble of rinsing out returnable cups. Read More
Freiburg might just be the greenest city in Germany. Here, a green lifestyle is not just a passing fad; it is a way of life. The city is ambitiously developing new technological and social innovations that will give it a leading edge, making it an ecological pioneer in Germany and Europe as a whole. No other German city has a more widespread system of cycling paths, and 27 percent of the city’s surface area is used for agriculture. By 2050 Freiburg plans to be the first carbon-neutral city and is counting on solar power, an excellent public transport network and passive homes to get there.
But smaller, everyday green ideas are welcome here too – like the Freiburg Cup. Following a successful test phase, these deposit coffee cups could now serve as a model for other cities.
A financial incentive is the key
Little is more sacred to the average German than a coffee to go on the way to work in the morning. And at lunch. And of course on an afternoon walk. Unfortunately, little is more damaging to the environment than this passion: In Germany alone, an estimated 2.8 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away each year, which amounts to 40,000 tons of non-recyclable materials. If you expand these figures to reflect disposable coffee cup use worldwide, the numbers are quite alarming.
Admittedly, this is not breaking news. There have been countless initiatives aimed at convincing coffee drinkers to switch to reusable cups. The problem: they are just not as convenient, which limits their success. Refillable cups have to be rinsed after use (annoying on the go) and, depending on the material used, some complain they negatively affect the taste of the coffee.
People like their conveniences, so environmental protection has to be simple and easy to do if it is going to work. This is exactly where the Freiburg Cup comes in: A returnable cup with a redeemable deposit combines the convenience of to-go coffee with waste prevention.
This is how it works: You buy your cup of coffee from a bakery or café in a Freiburg Cup, drink it on the way to work, and then return the empty cup to any participating café or bakery to get back your 1 euro deposit. No need to rinse, retailers take care of that end of things. A Freiburg Cup is expected to survive up to 400 washes, which means 400 fewer disposable cups for each one in circulation. Only the lids are disposable for hygienic reasons.
Setting a standard in only a year
The pilot project kicked off in Freiburg at the end of 2016. After just over a year, the local waste disposal companies have nothing but praise for the system. Even though the Freiburg Cup was not used throughout the entire city, it noticeably reduced rubbish. The city’s waste disposal company, the Freiburger Abfallwirtschaft und Stadtreinigung ASF, receives weekly inquiries from larger cities interested in adopting the model as well.