Nowadays it is no longer a problem if we are late in the morning or treat ourselves to a mulled wine on the way home from the Christmas market.

Thanks to the established “to go” system, nobody has to do without their favorite drink, but can simply take it with them on the way.

Admittedly, there are many advantages to this.

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Unfortunately, one-way cups and plastic caps also produce an enormous amount of waste.

To be precise: 320,000 tons of waste per hour, in Germany alone.

The main problem is that the cups end up in the residual waste and then in the waste incineration instead of being recycled.

If you practice environmentally conscious behavior and want to forego the taste of the plastic coating in the paper cup, bring your own reusable cup with you.

This mostly consists of bamboo fibers or corn flour.

That sounds very environmentally friendly at first, after all, maize and bamboo are among the fastest renewable raw materials of all.

Sustainability or not, now comes the bad news: Many of the alternative reusable cups are not made from just this one material.

They also contain harmful plastics.

The Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety has now found out.


The Federal Office took a closer look at over 50 products, including reusable cups and alternative dishes made from bamboo and cornmeal.

The main problem is under what circumstances the products are used in everyday life.

At higher temperatures, for example when hot beverages are poured in or when they are heated in the microwave, large amounts of melamine and formaldehyde are transferred to the food in question.

Those who regularly take melamine resins in this way are more likely to have kidney damage and bladder stones in the future.

The chemical compound formaldehyde, on the other hand, is irritating to the skin and mucous membranes, warn doctors.

Because of these harmful effects, there are usually European limit values ​​in place to protect consumers.

However, the analysis of the products showed that the melamine limit was clearly exceeded in a quarter of the alternatives examined.

The same was true for the formaldehyde limit.

The transfer of the melamine resin to the corresponding food even increased when the product was used multiple times.

Consumers think they are choosing an environmentally friendly alternative, but then they are holding a product that could pose a health risk.

Helmut Tschiersky, President of the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety 


You should therefore only use plastic-free dishes and cups made of bamboo and cornmeal for cold or lukewarm dishes and foods, then there is no health risk.

But from which cup can we safely enjoy our hot drink?

A stainless steel mug, for example, is a suitable alternative.

The advantage of stainless steel: It is food-safe, so no or only very small amounts of the material components are transferred to the food.

It also remains rust-free.

However, since the production requires a lot of energy, you should use a stainless steel mug for as long as possible to increase the lasting effect.

For example here

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Silicone cups are also suitable, as the material is free of plasticizers and heat-resistant.

If you only cover short distances with your mug and don't have it in your hands for long, you can fall back on glass or porcelain.

Although these materials are more fragile and get hot more quickly, the taste of the contents is best preserved.


Ultimately, an alternative is and will remain particularly sustainable and healthy: Simply take a seat with colleagues or friends and enjoy the products from the reusable cups on site.

If you are short on time, you now know what to do.

This article was first published in December 2019.