Tartu City Government wants bars' reusable cup scheme to end

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Raekoja plats in Tartu.
Raekoja plats in Tartu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Tartu City Government believes a reusable cup scheme launched by four bars in the city last month is encouraging drinking on the street.

Bars Möku, Kivi, Barlova, and Naiiv started the scheme in September which saw the introduction of a cup which can be used in all four bars. It costs €2 upfront and customers receive a refund when they return their cup to the bar. The bars wanted to stop using single-use plastic cups which cannot be recycled, ERR News reported.

ERR in Estonian reported on Thursday that the Tartu City Government's Department of Entrepreneurship is unhappy with the initiative and believes it encourages people to drink in the street as customers can take their cups with them as they move from one bar to the next.

"The idea of ​​reducing the use of plastic is welcome, but it still contradicts law and order," said Trade Supervision Specialist, Merle Pau. "Drinking alcohol on the street is prohibited."

Naiiv board member Martin Maatee said they were not sure how their cup is different from the single-use plastic cups customers used to receive. Previously customers still took plastic cups with them but at least now they can be recycled rather than thrown away.

But Tartu City Government believes the circulation of the cups should be looked at separately.

Pau said they cannot deny Maatee's argument, but said: "We can't check all the bars and make sure customers don't take their cups elsewhere. But in this case, we know for sure that in these four places the circulation of cups encourages it [drinking in the street]."

Kivi bar owner, Simo Türn, believes the initiative could expand and said there has been interest from other bars in the city.

Türn said the city council should look at the bigger picture. He said: "It could be normal in Tartu in the future to not have plastic cups but a common cup in circulation." Adding that with the capital of culture coming to the city in 2024 it could be a good advertisement for the city and entrepreneurs.

A press release issued by Tartu City Government said the media coverage was triggered by a memo from the Tartu City Government to the four bars, which alerted the owners to the fact that alcohol is not allowed to be sold in bars to take-away. 

It said that Tartu does not want to ban cup recycling and is strongly in favor of environmentally friendly initiatives

Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm said the reusable cup initiative is a good idea, but some bottlenecks have now come to light.

He said: "It is not a question of drinking cups, but drinking alcohol on the street bought from bars. This is against the law and is also important for a safe urban environment. We are fully committed to working with the bars to find solutions to prevent the alcohol they sell from moving around the streets"

* This article was updated on October 3 to Include Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm's comments


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Editor: Helen Wright

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