Hamburg bans coffee capsules

The German city-state of Hamburg has urged public institutions and government bodies to consider the environment more proactively when spending taxpayer money – with coffee capsules now banned from public shopping lists. The city government has published a 150-page catalogue outlining which products are considered environmentally friendly and which will be banned from being purchased using public funds. With the goal of “utilising the state’s purchasing power to drive innovation”, the catalogue rules out the future use of chlorine-based cleaning products, water sold in plastic bottles as well as aluminium-based coffee capsules. It also aims at replacing at least half of the city’s petrol-driven passenger cars by electric alternatives until 2020, and restricts the use of certain light bulbs and even wall paint. In publishing the catalogue, Hamburg is formally putting into place a new EU sustainability guideline, with other states considered to follow suite before April. While the coffee capsule restriction has led to a public debate about the role of governments in a free market environment, critics have already pointed out a loophole in the catalogue: Until a threshold of around EUR500, the new rules are considered “recommendations” only, as German magazine Focus discovered.

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