El Rojito/Refill It!

A network of cafes in Hamburg hopes to cut down on the billions of disposable cups Germans throw out each year.

Hamburg is serious about cutting its caffeine-related waste: Earlier this year it banned environmentally disastrous coffee pods from government buildings, and now it has pioneered a system for reusable to-go coffee cups that don’t end up in the trash after just one short use.

It works like this: customers pay €1.50 (about $1.63) 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 program. 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. If you’re squeamish, there’s an option to buy your own fitted lid, so you don’t have to worry about where the rim of the shared mug has been.

The program, which launched earlier this month, is meant to reduce the 320,000 disposable coffee cups trashed every hour in Germany. 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,’” reports DW. “Germs would accumulate around coffee dispensers, it said.”

El Rojito/Refill It!

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  2. a rendering of the moon village with a view of Earth
    Design

    Designing the First Full-Time Human Habitat on the Moon

    SOM, in partnership with the ESA and MIT, wants to accommodate research and maybe even tourism on the moon.

  3. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  4. A new map of neighborhood change in U.S. metros shows where displacement is the main problem, and where economic decline persists.
    Equity

    From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change

    A new report and accompanying map finds extreme gentrification in a few cities, but the dominant trend—particularly in the suburbs—is the concentration of low-income population.

  5. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.