Do You Know How To Recycle In Germany?
Filed in Travel Tips
Germany is a world leader in recycling. Although the country produces more than 30 millions tons of garbage every year, we have an advanced recycling collection system to avoid waste piles. Some waste is even burned at special facilities that provide steam energy to create electric power for our cities.
Understanding how to recycle in Germany is something locals have learned over time. We separate our trash instinctively and enthusiastically.
There are even reports of German soldiers in Afghanistan habitually separating their waste, despite the lack of a formal system.
It’s simply the German way. ;-)
How The German Recycling System Works
For newcomers, recycling in Germany takes a bit of getting used to!
To begin, unlike many other developed nations, Germany doesn’t have one single recycling bin. Typically, there are at least four bins. Each color manages a different kind of waste, and the bins are supplemented by other collection programs for glass, batteries, and miscellaneous goods.
Brown bins are for biological waste. This includes kitchen scraps and garden clippings. Other items that go in the brown bin are coffee filters, tea bags (without the paper tag), feathers, sawdust, and hair.
Blue bins are for paper and cardboard. In some ways, this is the easiest one! All of your papers, boxes, tea tags, and magazines go here, although you should remember to flatten boxes first and to throw in dry paper only.
Yellow bins are for plastics and metals — often also represented by the Der grüne Punkt sign (a round circle with two arrows pointing to each other). Plastic wrap, food cans, yogurt cups, shopping bags, and soap bottles go here.
They do ask that you rinse items before putting them into this bin (remember my “enthusiastically” note in the first paragraph? ;-).
Gray bins are for household waste a.k.a. Restmüll. Light bulbs (the old models), diapers, tissues, cigarette butts, and photographs are some of the things that go here. Also these items are burned when collected.
Glass and Batteries
Glass bottles and batteries are recycled publicly. You will see large bins for glass recycling in most public places. It is separated by color, always.
Batteries are collected at supermarkets and shopping malls.
In Germany, we also have Sperrmüll, which refers to miscellaneous items. Typically, Sperrmüll days will be announced as a time when municipal trucks will come around for all of the other things you want to have thrown away, like broken furniture, old lamps, or sofas. You place it on the curb outside of your house.
Sounds like it is heading for the landfill, right? Wrong! Second-hand goods dealers, junk collectors, and enterprising locals often collect the Sperrmüll long before anyone from the city arrives to get it. No sense letting something that can be used again be thrown away by your neighbors! ;-)
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