I have never really thought about my trash before. Oh, I recycled. I was always proud how full our recycle bins were and thought I was doing a good job. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the amount of recycling we do here.
Germany is determined to lead the world in recycling. It certainly feels like it as I sort more trash then I knew I made. My main trash can gets picked up only 1x a month. And it is about the size of my old kitchen trash can – the one I use to fill up in 2 days. It’s called the Restmull, the rest of the trash. It’s all the stuff that can’t be recycled like diapers or Kleenexes. To make sure you’re not tempted to throw away just anything into this trash can, it’s weighed and you are charged by the weight. At the end of the year, you get a bill on how much trash you threw away. We pay a monthly fee included in our rent and then at the end of the year it’ll be reconciled. Right now I have a 45 liter trash can in my kitchen and I empty the bag out about once a week (or if it stinks).
Then you have the yellow recycle cans. This is for all of the containers and plastic materials. Milk is sold in 1 liter cartons (similar to the almond milk boxes at home) that are completely recyclable. Yogurt cups, bread bags, candy wrappers and all packaging material goes into this recycle bin. This is picked up 2x a month. My trash can in the kitchen is also 45 liters and gets filled up more often. I take that bag down about 2x a week. Our house shares 4 large trash cans outside for the container recycles. And by large, I mean probably the smallest one in Arizona.
Next we have paper material. Kleenix boxes, toilet paper rolls, newspapers and cardboard all go into the paper recycling. I keep a large grocery bag with all the paper. Because paper is always dry, the plastic grocery bag works perfectly. It’s the kind that you buy with nice rope handles. Our house also shares 4 large paper recycling cans outside.
Raw food scraps are also sent out for compost. We have a small trash can that sits on my counter for coffee grounds, banana skins and eggshells. Our house shares 1 biotonne – for scraps and yard waste. This one feels easy as I’ve done my own composting for almost 10 years. Here the city does it for us.
Glass is also recycled separately. I keep a basket in the front closet for jelly jars, wine bottles and hot dog jars. Glass is not picked up by the city. This isn’t something we have a lot of, so about every other week I take the car and drive the glass with me to the recycling bins (because it’s heavy and I don’t want to carry it). Ours are located across the street from the grocery store. We separate it there into bins for brown, green and white glass.
Plastic bottles are also recycled separately but most of them have Pfand – a deposit price. So juice, soda, sparkling water all come in these plastic bottles and I can get money back for them. So those I sort into my grocery cart. Since I usually walk to the grocery store, I have a cart on wheels to help be bring the groceries back. So I just stick all the plastic bottles into the cart so that I take them with me to the grocery store. At each store, they have a recycling machine near the doors (all the stores have these machines). I get .10- .15 cents on each bottle depending on size. But a basket full of bottles can net me around 3 euros. Then the machine prints me out a little slip and I get that money back for my groceries.
Old clothes shouldn’t be thrown away either. There are a lot of trodel markets (think community garage sales) for children’s clothes that can be used some more. I also have about 3 apps on my phone where I can buy and sell second hand clothes for kids. But if the clothes are holey or ripped, the community has a big bin where you can have the material recycled.
I certainly think a lot more about trash then i use to. The kids have learned to always ask which trash can to put thing in so they are recycling properly too. I enjoy these teachable moments with the kids, because I know I’m teaching them how to save the world with one recycle at a time.