Combatting to-go garbage!

Combatting to-go garbage!

In November 2017, a student survey on coffee-to-go use on campus took place as part of the European Waste Prevention Week: The majority was in favor of a sustainable reusable cup system.

With regard to their previous preferences concerning cup use, 56% of respondents said they prefer to drink from porcelain, while only 17% prefer a to-go paper cup. However: In actual practice, both groups were almost the same size – 40% said they used the porcelain cups most often, while 36% of coffee consumers used the to-go variant. The result illustrates that its flexibility is a big advantage of the to-go principle, but at the same time it showed that while to-go cups are widely used, they are not actually that popular. The results promised potential for the introduction of a reusable cup system. For an optimal system encompassing all of Darmstadt, the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, the City of Darmstadt, Darmstadt City Marketing e.V., IFID, EAD, HEAG, e-hoch-3 and the Studierendenwerk joined forces.

In November 2018, during the European Waste Prevention Week, we demonstrate how the reusable cup system works and what the prototype looks like in our canteens:


The "Darmstadt Way"

The plan is to establish a circular system: the cup is produced by the manufacturer and is put into circulation by the participating suppliers of hot beverages. The cup users acquire a token the first time they purchase a beverage in a cup, which can be traded for a fresh cup at any participating supplier's business. The EAD (Darmstadt communal tasks and services) handles the transport of the returned cups so that they are distributed evenly among the participating hot beverage suppliers and potential cup shortages in the system can be compensated. If the cup is no longer usable, it is recycled according to the "Cradle to Cradle" principle (from origin to origin). As of now, the cup is made of polypropylene and is 100% recyclable.

Right from the start, project partners had to meet the following requirements:

  • Waste prevention
  • Preservation of resources
  • Recyclability
  • Contaminant-free materials


Through the reusable cup system, 1,054,000* disposable cups per year are to be saved in

Darmstadt. This would save 12 tonnes* of waste per year and mean a 20% reduction in disposable cups.

The Studierendenwerk will be among the first to put cups into circulation. It is planned to introduce the system in spring 2019. While in action, the process will be scientifically evaluated by the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences in order to continuously optimize the cleaning process as well as the manufacturing process.

*Guiding values (Das steht im Originaltext etwas verloren. Geht es hier noch weiter?)

Current intermediate step

Currently, there is a design to-go variant that is themed to draw attention to the waste problem. This cup has a 30 cents surcharge instead of the usual 20 cents. That way, we encourage you to use less of it and choose porcelain instead. Reusable cups of your own that you bring along can will also be filled.

Numbers on to-go cup consumption

In Germany, 320,000 disposable cups are used every hour,

  • three billion cups per year, 320,000 disposable cups per hour, 89 cups per second

Production of the cups including lids generates 111,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

  • For the cardboard that is needed, about 40,000 trees are cut every year, and 1.5 billion liters of water are consumed, i.e. half a liter per cup, which is more than the amount served in it.

(Source: Consumer Centre Bavaria)



Sustainability Manager

Georg Richarz

Porträt des Nachhaltigkeitsmanagers Georg Richarz

phone: 06151 16-29438