Reusable cups at Burger King: Bulette continues to be disposable
The restaurant association speaks of additional burdens, but environmental groups say the rule does not go far enough: in future, customers will be entitled to receive their to-go food and drinks in a reusable pack.
Because on January 1, 2023, the multi-way offer obligation will come into force.
Accordingly, restaurants, bistros and cafés that sell takeaway food and drinks must also offer products in reusable packaging.
According to the Federal Environment Ministry, disposable plastic packaging in particular should be replaced.
The Bundestag decided on this obligation in May 2021.
But what do the new requirements mean?
Who do they apply to and what is changing for the catering industry?
What is changing for customers?
From 2023, restaurants, bistros and cafés that sell takeaway food and drinks are obliged to offer reusable cups for all sizes of a to-go drink, for example.
The product in the reusable packaging must not be more expensive than in the one-way packaging - but it is allowed to issue the reusable packaging for a deposit, which is refunded upon return.
Compliance is monitored by the state authorities.
The federal states decide for themselves whether they hand over the tasks to municipalities.
Anyone who violates the new regulations risks a fine of up to 10,000 euros.
Are there exceptions?
The new obligation must be observed by all those who sell take-away packaging filled with food or drinks to consumers: restaurants, cafés, bistros, but also canteens, petrol stations, supermarkets or catering companies.
Exceptions to this are smaller shops such as snack bars, late night shops and kiosks, in which a maximum of five employees work and which at the same time have a shop area of no more than 80 square meters.
In these establishments, however, customers have the option of having their food and drinks filled in reusable containers they have brought with them.
According to the Federal Environment Ministry, the exception does not apply to chains such as train station bakeries if more than five employees work in the entire company – even if the sales areas of the individual locations are less than 80 square meters.
How does the system with reusable tableware work?
First of all: The reusable solution can be designed in very different ways.
Operators are initially only obliged to take back their own reusable packaging that they have issued.
However, there are also operators who work together with providers of reusable systems.
These uniform systems make it possible, for example, to buy a to-go coffee in a reusable cup at Hamburg Central Station and return it to a Berlin café.
Some systems require a deposit, others work with an app-based registration system.
The offer is already very large and, from the point of view of the Ministry of the Environment, will probably increase even more when the obligation to offer multiple-use offers comes into force.
What's happening to fast food?
The fast-food chain McDonald's has announced that it will offer its own reusable system with reusable packaging for a deposit of two euros.
"In our own returnable deposit system, we are initially concentrating on drinks and ice cream in all German McDonald's restaurants," it says.
In other words, burgers will continue to be sold in disposable boxes and paper.
Burger King works with a provider of reusable systems, which means that customers can also return their reusable cups to all of these dispensers.
According to the company, each reusable cup should be able to replace up to 1000 disposable cups over the course of its useful life.
What do the catering industry and environmental organizations say?
"For the vast majority of companies, the obligation to provide reusable containers means additional burdens," said a spokeswoman for the Dehoga hotel and restaurant association.
For the environmental association BUND, this is a step in the right direction, but not far enough.
He calls for an obligation to reuse without exception, as he fears that many retailers will continue to offer one-way as the standard.
From the point of view of the German Environmental Aid (DUH), the rules in their current form threaten to come to nothing.
To ensure that as many people as possible switch to reusable dishes, the DUH is demanding a levy of at least 20 cents on disposable tableware.
The DUH is also critical of exemptions, for example for small businesses.
When will disposable packaging be completely banned?
According to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, current EU law stands in the way of a complete ban on single-use packaging.
And an EU-wide ban has so far not been an option for some products, such as disposable drinking cups, because there are currently no more ecologically sensible alternatives for them.
However, certain products made of single-use plastic have been banned since July 2021: These include disposable products such as single-use cutlery and plates, drinking straws, stirrers, cotton swabs and disposable food containers made of Styrofoam.
The EU Commission will review the bans in 2027.
This could result in an extension of the bans.
How big is the amount of waste from food packaging?
According to the Berlin consumer advice center, citizens in Germany produce 770 tons of packaging waste per day through take-away packaging for food and drinks.
A study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency showed that single-use plastic products alone - such as to-go cups, food packaging, carrier bags, cigarette butts - cause municipal cleaning costs of around 434 million euros a year.
Not counting pizza boxes and aluminum trays.