One-way products like plastic plates, straws and plastic cutlery are used only for a few minutes, but never biodegrade completely if they end up in nature. Instead, they split up into increasingly small parts – micro plastics. These particles frequently end up in the stomach of animals. E.g. the Northern Fulmar, a bird that collects its food from the surface of the North Sea, has nearly always (93-97%) plastic in its stomach when found dead on the beach.
And if plastic dishes are collected in bins, they are often too dirty to be recycled and are sent for ‘thermal use’ instead.
From 2021 on, the EU plans to ban such one-way products. At ECER, we have banned them already and hope you will support this by avoiding them likewise, if you buy food outside of what ECER offers.
Single-serving packages of coffee cream, sugar, salt, butter, jam, etc. might be convenient and hygienic, but contribute with 256,000 tons unnecessarily to the 18 million tons of annual packaging waste in Germany . For a single serving of coffee cream, for instance, 38.4% more packaging is needed than for a 200g pot of cream.
You have received a coffee cup for free refills within the ECER grounds – please use it and help us to reduce the mountain of single-use coffee cups that pile up every day (about 85 tons per day in Germany only)! You might think that a coffee cup is made of paper and therefore not much of a problem. But since coffee cups are for the most part made of virgin material, five trees are cut down to produce the 320,000 coffee cups that are used in Germany per hour (about 43,000 trees per year). Moreover, such cups are coated with polyethylene, which makes them hard to recycle. To produce the coffee-to-go cups used in Germany every year, 83,000 ton of CO² are emitted (not counting the plastic lids! More info here).
About 1/3 of all produced food is lost or goes to waste. This means a tremendous waste of energy, natural resources, land, labour and water. Everybody can contribute to reduce this share both at home and when eating out, like at the ECER.
Therefore: please take only the amount you really need and go rather several times to refill your plate than ending up with leftovers that have to be thrown away!
Zero Waste is one of the fastest, easiest climate action strategies that everyone can implement today to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions (read more here).
Currently, the residual waste in Hamburg still contains about 20% paper and 14% other recyclable materials (Wertstoffe) – let’s reduce these numbers and contribute to saving resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions! (It also contains 38% organic waste, but at the moment the university is unable to provide a separate bin for that, unfortunately.)
Avoiding waste completely is difficult, but if you follow the 5 Rs, you are on a good way to minimise it: Refuse – Reduce – Reuse (+ Repair) – Recycle – Rot (see here). Our Going Green efforts try to reduce the occasions where you might receive short-lived products or packaging. But if you are stuck with some residues after all, please help us to recycle as much of it by separating it into the different bins.
Papier (paper): including envelopes, cardboard, cigarette packets without its plastic packaging. Not for used paper napkins and tissues and greasy pizza cartons (this is residual waste) or tetra pak cartons from juice or milk (this is recyclable material).
Wertstoffe (plastic and metal/recyclable material): in Hamburg, waste that consists primarily of plastic or metal is collected together as ‘Wertstoffe’. This also includes composite packaging like coffee-to-go cups and tetra pak cartons from juice or milk. Wherever possible, the recyclable material has to be disassembled to avoid it being incinerated after all (e.g. yoghurt cups often consist of a paper sleeve, a plastic cup and an aluminium cover – please place these parts in the bins separately!).
Glas (glass): Glass is a material that can be recycled easily and many times. But to ensure a high quality, colour purity is essential. Therefore, glass has to be separated again according to its colour: white (clear) glass, brown glass and green glass (which includes all other colours as well).
Dumpsters for glass waste (e.g. for bottles that do not have a deposit) are placed throughout the city. This website helps you to find them. Just insert the street where you are, uncheck ‘Recyclinghöfe’ and ‘Papier’, and press ‘suchen’. Near our campus there are some in Binderstraße (behind the building Von-Melle-Park 8) and some on Allende Platz.
Restmüll (residual waste): Lacking a separate collection for organic waste at the university, this comprises all the rest and will be incinerated.
In Germany there are two deposit systems in place: one for reusable bottles (‘Mehrweg’). On such bottles you find the word ‘Mehrweg’ or its symbol (figure 1, symbol on the right side).
And there is a system for one-way-bottles that are collected for recycling. They always carry the Pfand symbol (figure 1, symbol on the left side). Although the one-way-plastic bottles are collected for recycling (in Germany you pay a deposit of EUR 0.25 for them), they are usually downcyled, which means that the collected material is not used to make new plastic bottles.
‘Pfand gehört daneben’ (Bottles belong next to (not into) trash containers): Since many people throw away their empty bottles instead of returning them to a shop, a campaign was initiated to encourage people to leave their bottles next to trash cans.
This is not only more sustainable (the bottles can then be recycled more easily) but it can also be seen as an act of solidarity, since people who need the deposit money to master everyday life can pick up the bottles without having to search the trash cans. So always remember: bottles do not belong into trash cans!
To support the ‘Pfand gehört daneben’ (bottles belong next to (not into) trash containers) initiative, students of Universität Hamburg launched a project to collect empty bottles: They put up old beer crates next to trash containers on campus for people to easily discard and pick up used bottles. There are already ten of these collecting points installed. Look out for these points on campus and leave your ‘Pfand’ bottles there.
Bottled water uses fossil fuels, contributes to global warming and causes pollution.
Refilling your bottle instead of drinking bottled water saves 150-300 g CO2-equivalents per litre (depending on where in Germany the source is). If all ECER participants refill their bottles and drink the recommended 2 litres per day, this saves 942 – 1884 kg of CO2-equivalents daily.
Even though plastic bottles can be recycled, the recycled material is seldom used to make new plastic bottles, as virgin material is cheap and easier to handle. Only 7.8 % of the recycled material has a quality similar to virgin material. This makes up for only 2.8% of the plastic used for producing new goods in Germany (s. Plastikatlas 2019, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/BUND). If you decide to buy a bottled drink after all, reusable bottles are the greener option.