Germany: Hamburg banned coffee capsules and bottled water

In Germany, ecology is not an empty word. In Hamburg, a large port city in northern Germany, will no longer serve coffee capsules in administrations. No more water or beer will be drunk in disposable plastic packaging, even if it is stored. And that’s not all, because now, cleaning will also be done only with detergents without chlorine.

These are some of the new regulations that came into effect at the end of January in the city-region, whose administration set itself the goal of becoming “a model in Germany” in terms of ecological management of supplies and public procurement. .

Hamburg’s “Guide to Green Procurement” is unique in its scope in Germany. The 150-page document details the ecological standards to be adopted by all city departments in their purchases.

The recommendations range from rules for the acquisition of appliances, interior and exterior lighting systems, hygiene items and office computer equipment, to the modes of use of transport equipment and the choice of equipment. textiles of uniforms. The guide therefore recommends offering alternatives to company cars by providing city agents with fleets of bicycles or public transport subscriptions.

In general, buyers are invited to ask themselves “about the desirability of buying a good or service if it can be avoided”, about the cost and the environmental impact of the purchase of a product over its entire life cycle, from production to disposal.

Beyond these recommendations, more or less restrictive, the guide states a short list of products to avoid in all cases: in addition to the high-profile ban on coffee capsules, bottles, cutlery and plastic plates for single use and indoor air fresheners, considered too polluting or greedy, can no longer be bought with the taxpayer’s money in Hamburg.

Germany: City of Hamburg banishes coffee capsules and bottled water: Do not generate extra costs

“In principle, there was a broad consensus on the approach,” says Jan Dube, the city’s spokesperson on environmental and energy issues. The only point of friction: the fear of too much bureaucracy, which led the project leaders to introduce arrangements for purchases below 500 or 1,000 euros.

Mr. Dube said that these measures are designed not to generate additional costs in the medium term for the city: the guidebook on the savings in energy and intermediate consumption to offset the additional cost of some greener purchases.

The city no longer buys mineral water: chilled water fountains connected to the network allow to fill glasses and carafes in administrations. And Hamburg does not stop there: the list of recommended and banned products is destined to lie down in the future. “The current recommendations are environmentally friendly, but we would like the next release to be more social and sustainable, that is, to look at the conditions of product manufacturing,” says Dube.

The scope of this decision is considerable. Hamburg, with 1.8 million inhabitants, is the second largest German city after Berlin. But it is especially the richest city in the country: every year, it generates 103 billion euros of wealth, or 53,000 euros per capita, far ahead of Bavaria, where the GDP per capita is less than 40,000 euros per year.

Hamburg’s purchasing budget is therefore very high: the port city spends 250 million euros each year on purchases of goods and services.

Hamburg the prosperous is also one of the cities where the Green Party is the best established and participates in local government for almost eight years, since 2011 with the SPD. In 2008, the Greens formed the first local coalition with the CDU, an alliance considered at the time as a symptom of the environmental movement in Germany, where concern for the protection of the environment is widespread among high-income urban people, often marked in the center and on the right.

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