The Hack

Coffee lovers unite! Whether is a special treat or a morning ritual, that “cappuccino to-go” has the potential to reduce landfill waste by the kilo while providing its usual dose of energy.

Convenience is often the motivating factor when it comes to single-use containers. While late night falafels and morning croissants might be necessary for survival at one point or another, becoming conscious of the packing used for food and drinks on the go can help us realize how quickly waste accumulates. In order to reduce some of the waste associated with take-out bring a reusable coffee mug or shop at a café that is reusable mug friendly.

Why is it green?

According to the Deutsche Umwelthilfe, 2.8 Billion disposable cups are dumped into German landfills each year. Part of the reason so many cups go straight to landfills is due to the fact that the majority of them cannot be recycled. In order to make disposable cups waterproof the cups are often coated with polyethylene, a plastic that is difficult to recycle when fused with paper.

With an average use time of 15 minutes per disposable cup, the concept of a single-use cup can seem extravagant to any eco-conscious consumer. Fortunately, there are easy ways to help reduce the amount of waste that results from disposable cups; such as, bringing your own reusable mug, finding a café that participates in a reusable cup trading scheme or shopping at a café that gives discounts for reusable mugs. For example, JustSwapIt is a Berlin-based startup that enables customers to put down a deposit for a reusable cup then bring the dirty cup back to a participating café, where it can either be swapped for your next cup of coffee or given back.

Impact and Easiness

Similar to bringing a reusable bag to the grocery store, a reusable mug is an easy habit to adopt. If the idea of carrying around a reusable coffee mug on top of a grocery bag and water bottle dissuades you, then think about using a mug that is already at your office or keeping one in your car. Alternatively, JustSwapIt takes away the hassle of taking the cup home to wash it yourself. The “break-even point” or amount of uses necessary to make a reusable cup more sustainable than a disposable one, varies according to the materials used to produce the mug.  One study states that a ceramic mug needs to be used approximately 28 times before the amount of CO2 emitted during its production is less than that of a disposable cup. For those that drink coffee every day, your mug could potentially reduce your footprint in less than a month!

Disposable coffee cups are just one aspect of consumer side waste in the food service industry. The take-out materials used by restaurants are typically difficult to sort and recycle. Additionally, the single-use products can contribute to a mentality of over consumption. While it might be impossible to completely avoid take-out you can also reduce waste by choosing to use your own forks and knives instead of using plastic ones. Finally, if you are feeling extra ambitious, you can walk to your nearest restaurant for take-out instead of ordering in; ultimately limiting the amount of energy consumed to deliver your food to your door.

Sustainability Score

Impact: ⭐️⭐️
Easiness: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Do you know of any stores participating in JustSwapIt? Does your café give discounts for bringing a reusable mug?  Do you have a suggestion on how to remember your reusable mug before going to a café?

We are interested in your stories! Just leave a comment below.



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One thought on “The Reusable Coffee Mug

  • January 4, 2017 at 8:02 AM

    Absolutely love it!! ? Everyone appreciating take out coffee in Berlin should have one. I know that Bio Company gives 20 cents discount if you bring a mug, I guess they’d also participate in the swap?


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