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“Bonn goes reusable” campaign: Disposable coffee cups remain a problem

“Bonn goes reusable” campaign : Disposable coffee cups remain a problem

Around a hundred or so establishments in Bonn offer coffee in reusable cups. But the numbers have not increased since the “Bonn goes reusable” campaign began in an effort to curb waste. An estimated 40,000 coffee cups with plastic lids are consumed daily in Bonn.

At the coffee trolley at the University of Bonn, all is well with the world. Here you can get steaming coffee or tea freshly brewed in a porcelain cup. If you are in a hurry, you can hand Eva Jossenhans and her co-workers your own coffee mug. "There are quite a few who do that," the young woman happily reports. For everyone else, there are paper cups, which at best end up in the trash can after 15 minutes.

Coffee-to-go has firmly established itself. With the campaign "Bonn geht den Mehrweg" ("Bonn goes reusable") the municipal waste company Bonnorange has been trying since summer to counter the daily flood of an estimated 40,000 coffee cups with plastic lids that are consumed daily in Bonn. Jérôme Lefèvre from the press office of the municipal waste company reports that one hundred eating establishments are taking part. In addition to major players such as McDonald's or the Post Group canteens, it is mainly the well-established cafés in Bonn that support the idea of reusable packaging. But the number of participants has hardly increased since the campaign was launched. And the chain restaurants with high customer frequency, for example at Bonn Central Station, are not among them.

However, a random sample in the city shows that many bakeries that are not listed also sell hot drinks in returnable cups if their customers request it. This is the case at the Lubig branch on Wenzelgasse as well as at the Stadtbrot Bakery Rott on Münsterplatz. At Backwerk on Remigiusstrasse, customers even get a discount of 20 cents when they use their own mug. There is also a discount at Kamps on Windeckstraße. It is the only branch of a large bakery that has supported the campaign so far. Advertising for reusable cups can hardly be spotted around town.

At a bakery chain on Poststrasse, employees steadfastly refuse to fill mugs that customers bring along. With the reasoning: It is not permitted under hygiene laws. Their compromise suggestion is to put the coffee in a paper cup and let the customer pour it into their own cup from there.

On this point, the city administration is only somewhat reassuring: "Basically there are no regulations by the city of Bonn or the food safety authorities, which forbid the serving or the delivery of food in reusable containers", according to the press office. However, "the responsibility for how food is delivered always lies with the business".

It is this assumed responsibility, which prevents some chains from working with reusable containers. The Lebensmittelverband Deutschland e. V. (Food Federation Germany) is giving an all-clear. In a legally binding handbook it makes clear: "Since the container is the property of the customer and is filled at the explicit request of the customer... the business operator cannot be held responsible for the suitability and condition of the cup."

However, there is a lot to be considered in order to remain hygienically-speaking on the safe side. To make sure that the consumer-owned beverage containers do not spread germs in the eating establishment, they should not be allowed in close proximity of open food products. "The optimal solution is to use transfer containers or cup holders or trays for the customer-brought cups," says the leaflet. The lid should always remain in the hands of the customer.

Matthias Johnen is deputy managing director of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) Nordrhein in Cologne. He was involved in the conception of the Bonn reusable campaign. "Especially in the case of chain stores, the entire procedure has to be incorporated into personnel training and this takes a little longer," he explains. But it is customers who ultimately decide if they go to businesses that allow for use of reusables or not.

It is not possible to assess how widespread it has become for coffee drinkers in Bonn to bring along their own reusable containers. Nobody keeps a book on it. However, a glance at the shops with their high stacks of paper cups and a look at the garbage bins in Bonn leave the impression that many are still enjoying coffee in disposable cups.

Orig. text: Martin Wein

Translation: ck