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Articles - Issues Of Home Economics:

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Campaigning against disposable mugs

Coffee-to-go is a lifestyle choice. In particular, young people on the move tend to buy hot coffee in disposable mugs. Over the years, this surging trend has resulted in a huge amount of waste that has become a real burden on the environment. Now the Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), a German environmental organization, has started a campaign "Reusable mugs – the way to go" to promote reusable alternatives. The environmentalists are also demanding a levy of 20 cents per disposable mug.

A product of the modern throwaway society

The coffee-to-go disposable mug might be a symbol of the modern throwaway society. It is used, on average, for 15 minutes and then discarded. In 1996, the first coffee-to-go was sold over the counter in Germany. Increasing mobility and the popularity of coffee has resulted in an inexorable flood of cups and mugs. For many people a mug of coffee is an indispensable part of their daily routine – on the way to work or at leisure in a coffee bar.

Contamination and resource wastage

The environmental impact – litter in public places, streets and green places –  is all too evident. But resources, too, are lost. In Germany 2.8 billion cups are discarded every year. They consist predominantly of paper fibres that as a rule are produced from virgin material. Their production consumes 64,000 tons of wood, 1.5 billion litres of water, 11,000 tons of plastics. Add to this an amount of energy that would suffice to supply a small town for a whole year. Disposable cups amount to an annual waste of 31,000 tons, plus a further 9,000 tons through plastic lids.



Coffee-to-go without waste

According to the DUH this trend can only be reversed by making the consumer pay for disposable products. A levy of 20 cents is in discussion. At the moment, no charge is made for disposable mugs. But you can also enjoy a coffee on the go without generating waste. Environmentalists, for instance, would like to persuade the big coffee house chains to change to reusable cups. One option would be to introduce a standardized reusable mug that could be used in and returned to any coffee house. Even today coffee enthusiasts can ask to have their coffee filled into their own closable mugs. The DUH would like to see this promoted much more.


Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de


Introductory picture: © Sascha Krautz