Government bans on wasteful products create an opportunity for greener - G-PAK

Government bans on wasteful products create an opportunity for greener alternatives.

April 10, 2016


Imagine your government enacted laws forcing you to change your daily routine.  That’s exactly what Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, has done. As part of a wide scale effort to reduce energy consumption and waste, government officials in Hamburg have banned the use of coffee pods in government-run buildings, offices and institutions (including schools and universities). 

It’s not new information that single-serve coffee (“SSC”) pods have taken the coffee marketplace by storm.  SSC offers convenience, improved consistency and fewer half-pots of coffee down the drain each morning.  Moreover, every single-serve user has the unique ability to brew the roast or blend that he or she most enjoys.  Single-serve coffee machines also make it possible for businesses to offer fresh coffee to clients and employees without having to discern whether the coffee in the pot is fresh.

According to the BBC News, the ban applies to “equipment for hot drinks in which portion packaging is used.” The ban thus covers any single-serve brewer, including Keurig or Nespresso machines.

Hamburg's Department for the Environment and Energy states that coffee pods cause "unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation," and "often contain polluting aluminum."  Jan Dube, a spokesperson for the Hamburg Department of the Environment explained to BBC News, the pods “can’t be recycled easily because they are often made of a mixture of plastic and aluminium.”

The regulations also prohibit spending public funds on bottled water, plastic cutlery and chlorine-based cleaning products. Hamburg is believed to be the world's first city to outlaw the use of these products. 

Who is leading the race?

In the City of Vancouver, the Greenest City Action Plan is a strategy for staying on the leading edge of urban sustainability.  Through a set of “measurable and attainable targets,” government officials aim to put “Vancouver on the path to becoming the greenest city in the world.”

One of the initiative’s primary goals is to produce zero waste.  Over the last four years, the City has introduced a new green bin program to collect and divert compostable food scraps.  On January 1, 2015 a “Metro Vancouver region-wide ban on the disposal of organic waste with garbage came into effect.”  Government officials supported the ban with a bylaw requiring all properties in Vancouver to have an “organic waste diversion plan.”  

“With full engagement by all partners,” government officials are confident that the zero waste actions are achievable.  The initiative supports the City’s goal in moving toward a “closed-loop, cradle-to-cradle economy where resources are put to the highest and best use.


California set a precedent when it voted a ban on the use plastic bags into law in 2014.  However, that measure has been put on hold due to heavy lobbying from pro-plastic groups to hold a public referendum.  The ban will be put to a state-wide vote in November of 2016.

In July 2015, Hawaii became the first state to actually implement a state-wide plastic bag ban.  Hawaii’s ban prohibits grocery stores from handing out certain types of non-reusable plastic bags. However, the exemptions in Hawaii’s regulations include a significant loophole. 

The law defines plastic bags that are 0.0025 inches and have handles as reusable.  Several retailers have adapted to the new law by handing out slightly thicker plastic bags.   

In March of 2015 France passed a law that made it mandatory for rooftops on new buildings in commercial zones to be either partially covered in plants or solar panels. Green roofs have an isolating effect, helping reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer.

These courageous political initiatives are paving the way for real change, we are looking forward to seeing what else Canada (and the rest of the world) has in store as we shift toward becoming a greener global community.


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