I don’t think any expat-in-Germany blog is complete without a post about recycling. It isn’t that recycling is some revolutionary concept; it’s just a trickier system here. I finally feel like I have mastered that system.
For the 6.5 years before moving here, I became very lazy about recycling. You see, San Diego’s recycling center does the sorting for you. We had one giant blue recycling bin that everything went into. Twice a month, the bin went to the curb, and that was it.
When I got to Germany, I had to remind myself to start sorting my recycling. In our little guesthouse apartment, I dutifully threw the paper and cardboard into the paper bin and trash into the trash bin. I set the glass bottles in a corner until I found the glass recycling containers. But the guesthouse didn’t have a place to recycle biological waste, so I didn’t separate it. And they didn’t tell us how to deal with packaging (plastic, aluminum cans, etc.), so I gave up and threw them in the trash.
We then moved into our own apartment, where the owner showed me the building’s bins for trash, bio waste, and paper. Again, there didn’t seem to be a system for packaging, so I gave up and trashed it. (I think it’s a real problem that no one bothers to explain these things to newcomers!) Glass bottles piled up in the corner, because I kept forgetting to hunt for the recycling bins.
Finally, after some apartment drama, we moved again. Here we have bins for trash, bio waste, and paper. There is a designated spot for the yellow bags (used to recycle packaging). And the glass bins are conveniently located right at the end of our street. I used the recycling guide at How To Germany to make sure I was sorting everything properly, and we set up nice bins in the kitchen to keep everything separate:
- Bio waste: A small covered bin with a foot pedal so we can throw away particularly messy food bits without touching anything. I also found plastic-like, biodegradable bags so we also don’t have to deal with a slimy bin.
- Paper: One bin in the kitchen/living room, another in the office.
- Packaging: A bin in the kitchen/living room with a lid to keep the lightweight materials from blowing away (and to remind me not to let it get to overflowing before I take it downstairs).
- Glass: A bin in the kitchen with a reminder to take wine and beer bottles back to the store for the deposit. I’m bad about remembering to do that, but having a more organized system should help!
- Trash: A bin under the kitchen sink for everything else.
It’s amazing how much can be recycled here! In the US, I always hated throwing away things like plastic wrap that were too thin to be recycled. And I’ve never gotten into composting, so it’s nice to know that our food waste isn’t going to rot in a garbage heap. It takes a little extra thought, but it feels good to recycle so much of our waste. The only real downside of this orderly system? Sometimes it takes so long to fill up the trash can that the trash starts stinking before it’s full!