In Brisbane, recycling for most people consists of splitting their daily household rubbish into recyclable, and non-recyclable items. Rubbish goes in the black bin, and recyclable items go into the bin with the yellow lid. Once a week (if your lucky) a truck comes past, and picks up the rubbish. That’s it really, nothing much else to think about!
In Germany things are a whole lot different! Recycling here is huge, and is something that everyone does. After a while it becomes second nature, and you don’t even need to think about it. At first I was a little stunned with the amount you have to learn, but now I am like everyone else, doing the right thing for the environment.
In Australia, when you go shop and buy a bottle of coke, water, juice, or any other favourite drink, you drink it, then chuck the bottle in the bin. That’s what I use to do. Here when you buy a bottle of drink from a shop, you keep the bottle, and return it at a later time. Why?
Every bottle (well almost every bottle), has a surcharged place on it at the cash register before it leaves the shop. The surcharge varies depending on the bottle, what it is made of, and who it is made by. Coke bottles have a charge of 15c added. A mineral water bottle made of glass might carry a 75c charge. Thinking in terms of AUD and the EURO that is too much to throw away each time you buy a drink!
The same goes for a carton of beer. All 24 bottles of beer carry the surcharge, as does the carton (which here is more like a crate). When you return all bottles and the carton you are returned your deposit which can be up to 3 Euros.
Most Super Markets have some method of bottle collection. In most cases it is an automatic system similar to this one.
You rock up to the machine with your bottles in hand, you put them down the shoot, or on the conveyer belt (for entire cartons), and after you have finished, you press a button. The machine then prints a ticket with a barcode, which you give to the cashier when you leave the store. You refund is then deducted from the sub-total of your shopping. Pretty simple and effective way to get people to recycle.
Bottles that don’t carry a “Pfand”, such as wine bottles, glass jars, and any other glass materials are seperated by colour and placed in a huge umder ground bins similar to this one.
Around the house we have a number of different bins. We have a bin for food scapes (yes it smells sometimes), a bin for general waste, a bin for plastics, and a bin for paper products such as cereal boxes. It is all very complex!
Outside most houses/apartments have a line of bins like this one.
What goes where?
Grey bins (household waste)
* Ash, wire, carbon paper, electrical appliances, bicycle tubes, photos, broken glass, bulbs, chewing gum, personal hygiene articles, nails, porcelain, rubber, plastic ties, broken mirrors, vacuum cleaner bags, street sweeping dirt, carpeting pieces, diapers, cigarette butts, miscellaneous waste
Brown bin (biological waste) – too small to see over the fence.
* Kitchen waste: old bread, eggs shells, coffee powder and filters, food leftovers, tealeaves and tea filters
* Fruit and vegetables: peels, apple cores, leaves, nutshells, fruit stones and pips, lettuce leaves
* Garden waste: soil, hedge trimmings, leaves, grass clippings, weeds, dead flowers, and twigs
Other: feathers, hair, kitchen towels, tissues, sawdust, and straw
This wastage is taken away a few times a week, and is made into compost!
Blue bins (paper)
* Envelopes, books, catalogues, illustrations, cartons, writing pads, brochures, writing paper, school books, washing detergent cartons without plastic, newspapers, paper boxes
Yellow bins (plastic, etc)
* Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, inside packaging materials
* Tins, cans, liquids refill sachets/bags, yogurt cups, body lotion bottles
Plastic bags, margarine tubs, milk sachets, plastic packaging trays for fruit and vegetables, screw-top bottle tops, detergent bottles, carry bags, vacuum packaging, dishwashing liquid bottles
(for the comprehensive guide to German recycling see http://www.howtogermany.com/pages/recycling.html)
I have to say that all of this might sound a little more difficult than the Australian system, but from what I have read it is really working. Wastage here has been cut significantly, and the processes are really working. This surely must be good for the envirornment, and maybe one day a similar system might exist in OZ.