Passengers on Deutsche Bahn, the largest rail company in Germany, will now be able to choose reusable cups, plates, and bowls for food and drink while traveling.
Starting on Jan. 1, 2023, ordering food on any of Deutsche Bahn’s intercity and high-speed services will now come with an option for porcelain serving dishes, according to the Guardian. Porcelain cups, plates, and bowls will be free of charge and without any deposit, while plastic options will also still be available.
The change comes amid a range of sweeping changes in Germany — many of them related to single-use plastic packaging. Also starting on Jan. 1, all German restaurants, cafes, and catering businesses must also offer reusable packaging for food and drinks. While the country is not outright banning single-use packaging, it is now obligatory to provide an alternative for free.
Practices like this are vital for countries around the world; Germany amassed 18.7 million tons of packaging waste in 2017, according to data published by the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA). Plastic can take hundreds of years to break down and even then it enters the soil and our waterways to damage wildlife, with tiny microplastics often being found inside fish, birds, and other animals.
As Deutsche Bahn explained on its website, a disposable cup has an average lifespan of just 15 minutes before it’s thrown away. This level of waste leads to environmental pollution and the production of such items requires immense amounts of valuable resources like wood, water, and atmosphere-polluting carbon energy.
“This generates an unimaginable amount of waste every day — according to the German environmental association Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the daily figure [of disposable cups used] in Germany is in the region of 7.6 million,” the company wrote on its site. “That’s 320,000 cups every hour.”
Deutsche Bahn has put several programs in place to try and improve its environmental footprint, including a recent shift to make more than 50% of the onboard food options either vegan or vegetarian-friendly.
“Deutsche Bahn is driving forward its green transformation in onboard catering,” Michael Peterson, the rail operator’s passenger services chief, told the Guardian.