Winning the Recycling Game

You’ll have to accept my apology for the delay in this post, but I have been busy sorting my rubbish. As those of you know, thanks to previous posts by Hyde and Ruth, this is serious business here in Germany.  I am reacquainting myself with what goes in the Gelber Sack (yellow bag), Biomuell (not to be confused with Compost), and Restmuell (anything else).

You can purchase and sort with strategy in order to reduce your consumption, eliminate some of your clutter and save some money. First off, I would recommend to any Americans preparing to move to Germany to take the time to sort through your things there. Take advantage of the convenience of your rubbish being collected frequently and of the tax benefit for donating things. You will avoid the cost and hassle of having to do so in Germany. It is likely that you will be moving into a smaller place anyway so downsizing your things will pay off in the end. The hassle in waiting for the next paper pick up, now that your container is bulging with all of your back issues of untouched In Style magazines will be eliminated. And don’t forget the tax advantage of getting a receipt for your donation to your local American library, where you could have unloaded those back issues. 

The other habit to instill is to always carry a shopping bag or two in your handbag, backpack and car. Although in the US, several stores such as Target and Whole Foods give you 5 cents back for each bag you bring and use, it is far more motivating to avoid a 10 cent charge incurred when you have to buy a bag than to get a 5 cent deduction.

Find a place for your bottles and get used to bringing them back to a store to get your money back. I am talking about the Pfand (deposit) for most plastic and glass bottles, and even some glass jars such as for organic yoghurt. Instead of the 5 cent deposit which the handful of participating states in the U.S. give for bottle and can returns, you get 25 cents in Germany. Returning is also far more convenient as automatic self-service machines can be found at nearly all grocery stores, or returns can be made at the many beverage stores. It is a clever, convenient system. For shops, there is the plus that you are highly likely to buy more at the same store where you are returning your bottles. Unlike in California, it is simple to make the returns nearly anywhere that you normally shop. Plus the higher deposit motivates you to bring back the bottles for reuse in order to get your money back.

The other compulsion you will develop when shopping is to either look for products with the least amount of packaging or leaving as much packaging behind. Look for the counter of recycling bins after the cash register and assess if the plastic wrap around the bananas can be left or if taking the plastic around the blueberries now would cause more trouble. You’ll often also see the green containers where you can dump your batteries.

Finally, during the moving process, make sure the moving company and the Ikea/appliance delivery people take away all cardboard and packaging! You’ll be spared an extra trip to the recycling center.

In no time at all, you’ll be sorting in your sleep and whipping out cotton shopping bags at the most convenient moments – all in a day’s work as a German Way expat.



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