Or, “Recycling: not just a good idea… It’s the law!”
Recycling is very important in Germany. With a country only slightly larger than New Mexico, holding approximately 87 million people, all that trash has to go somewhere… and they’re not about to dump it in the Black Forest!
So Germany has very stringent recycling ordinances. Packages are marked with the “Grüne Punkt,” indicating that they are recyclable. This dot is on everything! Styrofoam, milk cartons, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, cans, package boxes, etc. You can be fined for not recycling items that are marked as recyclable.
Recycling in my neighborhood is divided into two types: paper, for which there is a bin in the courtyard in back, and “Verpackung” — food, etc. packaging of plastic, paper, aluminum, styrofoam, which is all considered “yellow.” Everything else is “gray” and thrown away in the trash — old food especially (although some people do compost, it’s not really an option where I am).
To make recycling easier, the city distributes “Gelbe Säcke” —rolls of thin yellow bags used to collect recyclable items. Here, the folks from Remondis come around every other Monday morning to collect the full bags from the streets. The picture here is an example taken on my walk with Siggy one Monday morning recently: piles of yellow bags full of packaging. The idea is that the recycled items are supposed to be clean — some folk actually wash them in the dishwasher, while others don’t bother at all, leaving food in them (gross!). I fall somewhere in between: I rinse out the packages so they won’t attract flies. We’re filling about one bag a week. We were recycling a lot in Athens, but nothing like here. It seems like they take everything!
Of course, don’t forget that soft drink and water bottles have a deposit and are returned to the store, so they’re not part of those bags. We fill my market bag weekly and head to the grocery for those.
You can be fined heavily for not recycling. Remondis distributes yellow bags once a year, but in between you can pick bags up at the city office, so we’ve been there twice so far — they only give out 10 bags at a time.