According to recent research by the German Environment Agency (UBA), 2.8 billion disposable "to go" cups are used per year, 1.7 billion of which are paper cups. The result is that more and more disposable cups are being discarded and polluting public spaces, streets and nature. Littering is a burden on our environment. Dealing with the volumes of waste in cities cost municipalities a lot of work and money. Disposable cups also mean consumption of valuable resources such as wood and plastic and their production requires water and energy. In stark contrast, the average use of the cup is perhaps ten minutes.
Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said: "We are consuming coffee much differently than we did twenty years ago. Coffee 'to go' has become a lifestyle trend for many people. FairCup has proven that environmentally friendly consumption is possible without giving up everyday habits."
The FairCup start-up was launched in 2016 by teacher Sibylle Meyer and her then-students at a vocational training school in Göttingen. What makes FairCup cups different is they can be returned to reverse vending machines (RVM) at participating supermarkets. FairCup's RVM partner is already established at 30,000 locations and tests are being run in select supermarkets in Göttingen and Hildesheim. In addition to hot and cold drinks, the cups are suitable for foods such as salads.
The Blue Angel award criteria include requirements of the cup itself as well their providers. The production of reusable cups and lids must avoid consumption of materials that may cause harm to the environment or health. The products must not be made of plastics containing polycarbonate or melamine, which might release bisphenol A. Cups must be recyclable in order to prevent a further increase of waste, which means they must be made of unmixed uncoated plastic. Cups must also have a long service life of at least 500 wash cycles. Environmental impact assessments made in a recent UBA research project on how to reduce the volume of disposable cups indicate that the rate of cup reuse is a significant factor in reducing the burden on the environment.
A deposit fee must continue to be charged on cups and lids and they must be taken back by the provider and recycled at the end of service life. Beverage vendors dispensing hot beverages must comply with the "Good Rules for Dispensing Hot Beverages" which state that customers must first be offered a reusable cup and lid or have their own cup filled. Providers of reusable cup systems must provide proof of a logistics concept that contributes to the ecological optimisation of transport routes and vehicles.