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. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  3. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  4. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  5. A map showing the affordability of housing in the U.S.
    Equity

    Minimum Wage Still Can’t Pay For A Two-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

    The 30th anniversary edition of the National Low Income Housing Coalition report, “Out of Reach,” shows that housing affordability is getting worse, not better.

×