Roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, whatever. Trash is big here.
At our old apartment in the US, I tried to recycle. I really did. But I pretty much gave up after I saw the apartment complex maintenance men taking whatever didn’t fit in the large bins and shoving it in the trash compactor. What a waste. Uh, like literally.
Here in Germany, peeps obey the rules. And when peeps don’t, the other peeps get hoppin’ mad. And, because they’re German, they’ve no problem telling you. exactly. how. they. feel.
First things first. Paper. It’s easy. It goes in a bin by itself. But “paper” doesn’t just include discarded scribbles by T-Rex. Any packaging, grocery bags, egg cartons, pizza boxes, etc made of paper should hop, skip, and jump their way into the Papier bin.
Next easiest – plastic bottles. I’ve previously told you about pfand, Germany’s way of getting rid of litter by charging a deposit on plastic (and sometimes glass) bottles. Often, it’s 25 cents, and you get it back when you return the bottle. Almost all plastic bottles have a pfand. If they don’t, they go in the yellow bag (below).
Working our way up… Glass. All glass has to be sorted by color (white/clear, green, or brown), and deposited in special bins in the neighborhood. But, keep in mind that you can only do this during work hours on work days, which is when I do just about everything else in my life. No little boys want to stand around while their mama sorts glass! Needless to say, my glass goes out like once every six weeks.
The two most confusing bins/categories for me are the yellow bag (gelbesack) and the “everything else” trash (restmülltonne). To my knowledge, all packaging with a European recycling logo goes into the yellow bag. Unless it’s paper. I think. And then the yellow bags go into their own dumpster (or just piled by the side of the road on trash day).
It’s a good thing I live in a big building with a ton of internationals. No one really expects us to get the yellow bag contents right (and I have seen some people just put all their trash in the yellow bags!). If you live in a normal, nice building and you get distracted by two boys under the age of four screaming at the top of their lungs and oops! accidentally put the wrong thing in the yellow bag, expect the garbage men to leave the smelly thing right where you put it. What’s more, they’ll slap an angry red sticker on there that says you-big-dunce-you-can’t-you-read-the-sign-and-sort-your-trash-correctly on it. That’s a direct translation. Totally.
The restmülltonne is the bin where everything else goes. Wait, not everything else. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Batteries get recycled at grocery stores. CDs get recycled at the library. And, how could I forget the bio trash?
Any animal or vegetable remains (peels, skin, egg shells and the like) get separated out into a brown bio bin. Not all buildings do this since apparently it costs more. Our building definitely does not do this. But, the first place we lived required it. My main beef (ha!) with this is the seriously annoying amount of fruit flies and gnats that take up residence in your kitchen. Icky sticky.
Okay, NOW I think we’ve covered all the separating. Emphasis on I think. Exhausting isn’t it? Whoever would have thought trash would be so.. complicated?
For a more comprehensive article on the subject, check this out. And, note that the various areas of Germany do the trash sort thing differently.