February 24, 2012

Recycling is a sport

And it is a sport indeed because you need three things to be successful at recycling here in Germany, the same three things that will make you good at any sport.

Rule number one: yes, follow the rules when you play and there are many rules when it comes to recycling in Germany.

You probably have three or four big garbage containers in your patio. You need to learn what goes where:

  • blue containers are for paper, 
  • brown containers are for organic waste and 
  • the grey ones are for “the remaining” household rubbish.

But hey, do not forget that some plastic and glass bottles (and cans in some cases) should not be thrown in any of these but brought them back to the stores where you bought them (most of the supermarkets have automatic machines to return them). 

What is the reason? You have probably paid an extra 10 to 20 cents when you bought the beer, the coke, the mineral water, etc. and you do not get this money back until you return the bottles to the store. This is called Pfand in German, something like a deposit and the goal is to make sure you recycle. 

For the non-refundable glass bottles (and cans), there are usually specific glass containers in the city. In Germany, you sort these by color, so each of them (green, brown and clear glass) has their own street container.

Rule number two: you need special equipment to recycle as well as you need special trainers to do jogging, a racket to play tennis or water glasses for swimming. And so it is, when you have to sort your garbage in different types (paper, organic, plastic and glass bottles and the remaining waste); for a start you need space in your kitchen and of course different and separate recycling bins.

Rule number three: plan you strategy to win. And by winning I mean to take out the garbage.

This is how I do it: 
  • I I know that Tuesday mornings is when the city services clear all the paper containers, so on Wednesdays they are likely to be empty and then it is when I go down to the patio and get rid of my bag of newspapers, magazines, etc. 
  • For the organic wastes, I take them out every evening when feasible, after all these are the most sensitive to stink in the kitchen. 
  • I go to the stores once a week to return the refundable glass and plastic bottles. And never on a Friday or during the weekend!
For more information, you can visit the official site (3 tonnensystem in German) or just do as I did and as everyone would do in any sport: training, training and training until you master it.

Now to dispose old furniture or home appliances you have two options in Munich:
  • You can take the old stuff yourself in your car to the designated facilities in Munich,
  • Or you can ask the AWM service to pick them at your place (at a price of course... check the AWM site to learn about the fees)
For more details go to the Munich waste city service (AWM), where you can find all the information regarding where and how you are allowed to dispose what and when and @ what price. The site is multilingual for the most important information.

In any case what you are looking for in German is called “Sperrmüll” (bulky waste) and this cannot be disposed at your home containers. An ironing table, a frying pan, a toaster or an old TV station are considered “Sperrmüll” and so must be disposed at the AWM facilities, never in your home containers!.

Happy recycling!

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