Minister Awards Eco-Label to Reusable “Rebowl” System

Anyone who wants to avoid single-use plastic when eating out now has another demonstrably particularly environmentally friendly option: Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze has awarded the “Blue Angel” eco-label to the “Rebowl” reusable system, which offers reusable bowls for food to-go.

The minister handed over the corresponding certificate in a Berlin café that already uses reusable bowls. Rebowl is a brainchild of the Munich-based company Recup, which already offers Blue Angel reusable cups. The Blue Angel guarantees, among other things, that the reusable containers are made of environmentally friendly and long-lasting material and can be rinsed at least 500 times without being damaged.

“Many disposable plastic containers are a waste of resources. Far too often, they end up in the environment and pollute the oceans. Since the beginning of July, many single-use plastic products for which there are better, ecological alternatives have been banned throughout the EU. I am convinced: no one has to miss the old single-use plastic. My goal is for Germany to put an end to the throw-away mentality. More and more people are already rethinking and using sustainable packaging in their everyday lives. The solution is reusable,” said Schulze. The new packaging law has introduced a new obligation, she said: Everyone who sells take-away food or drinks must always also offer a reusable alternative. “This will apply starting in 2023 but will have an effect much earlier. The fact that reusable systems work and offer great added value for the environment is shown by today’s Blue Angel award. With Blue Angel reusables, you can be sure you’re doing something good for the environment,” Schulze continued.

Reusable pool systems are particularly effective for environmental protection, she said, because customers can return the containers at many locations. Pool systems, in which restaurateurs can participate, also offer some advantages. For example, they do not have to purchase their own reusable containers and they benefit from the familiarity and experience of the reusable provider. They can also save money, because packaging made from disposable plastic is usually more expensive than the reusable solution.

The Blue Angel guarantees that products and services bearing it have less impact on the environment than conventional products and services – with the same usability and quality.

Only mono-material plastics

The criteria for awarding the eco-label for reusable systems (DE-UZ 210) include requirements for the material and manufacture of reusable cups and bowls as well as for suppliers. Manufacturers undertake not to use materials that are harmful to the environment or health for either cups or lids. These include melamine resins or polycarbonate plastics. To avoid increasing the volume of waste, the cups must allow for mechanical recycling. This means that plastic cups may only be made from single-grade plastic without coating with other materials. Reusable cups bearing the Blue Angel must also be able to be rinsed at least 500 times without being damaged. Life cycle assessment calculations from a recent study by the German Federal Environment Agency on the reduction of disposable coffee cups show that the frequency of cup reuse is an important criterion for reducing environmental impact.

Furthermore, the Blue Angel requires a deposit to be charged on cups and lids. At the end of their service life, cups and lids must be taken back and recycled. Suppliers must also undertake to comply with the “Good Rules” for serving hot beverages: customers should either always be offered the reusable cup and lid first or customer-owned cups should be filled. In addition, reusable cup system providers must prove that their logistics concept contributes to the ecological optimization of transport routes and of transport vehicles.

Starting January 1, 2023, anyone selling takeaway food and beverages will be obliged to offer their customers a reusable container as an alternative to single-use plastic containers and disposable cups. There is a relief for small businesses with up to five employees and up to 80 square meters of sales area. Here, only reusable containers brought in by the customers have to be filled. This is intended to reduce the consumption of such disposable containers, which has increased significantly in recent years – most recently even more so due to the pandemic-related restrictions on catering. Every time reusable containers are used, single-use plastic is saved.

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