Photo: Luise Wagener

Why “Mehrweg” is Better

Only “Mehrweg” bottles are sold at the Mensa. How does this policy contribute to saving the environment?

by Duygu Bräuer

In summer, it is often hard to find a really cold drink at the Mensa, because the weather is so hot, and the cold beverages are immediately sold out and have to be re-stocked. Once, the symbol Mehrweg caught my eye while trying to choose the coldest drink in the fridge. At that exact moment, I realized that only Mehrweg  (reusable) bottles are sold at the Mensa.

Although this came to my attention only recently, the decision of selling only Mehrweg bottles is not new for Mensa. PET Mehrweg bottles are sold there since 2004. The reason for this is sustainability. Climate change, sustainability, producing less garbage, recycling… We are in a midst of drastically changing our consumer habits and lifestyles. We are trying to alter our actions and consumption to combat climate change and its impacts that already have visible and multifaceted effect on our daily lives.

All the canteens run by studierendenWERK give importance to sustainable food production and purchasing. Thus, only Mehrweg bottles are sold, which is an environment-friendly decision such as the decision to abandon the use of paper cups and plastic straws. Mehrweg  bottles are eco-friendlier than the Einweg  (disposapal) bottles. Mehrweg bottles and Einweg (one-way) bottles are both made of PET which can be recycled. But the difference is that Mehrweg bottles can be refilled up to 25 times, but Einweg bottles are produced to be used once and then recycled.  Hence, Mehrweg  causes less CO2 emission per bottle than Einweg. This kind of bottle enables companies to save energy and raw materials. The process of washing and sterilizing existing bottles is more sustainable than the production of new, single-use bottles.

Both Mehrweg and Einweg bottles are included in the German deposit (Pfand) system. PET Mehrweg bottles in all shapes have a deposit of 15 cents. At the canteen, you pay for the drink plus the deposit. But there is no bottle return machine (Leergutautomat) at the Mensa like in supermarkets. – So how does this refund work?

The bottles should be brought to the cash desk in order to get the deposit back. The refund will be added to your MensaCard balance. Of course, it is also possible to return them at any supermarket.

The Umweltbundesamt (German Environment Agency) has recently published a report that Germany produces the most packaging waste in Europe. By 2022, Germany wants 70 % of its plastic bottles to be reusable plastic. A new packaging law that aims to reduce disposable plastic has been in force in Germany since 2019. This law obliges beverage providers like Mensa to help consumers make a conscious decision about buying disposable or reusable bottled drinks. In addition to the price, the words Einweg and Mehrweg  should be clearly indicated. This is how my eyes detected the symbol Mehrweg while trying to find the coldest drink in the fridge.


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