Trash of a multi-step sort

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.


Oh the things we miss…

I have a confession.  When we arrived in Germany we were pretty excited to try everything out.  Chocolate, bread and rolls every morning, quark, Donners, currywurst and more chocolate…  The kids have done an amazing job trying new foods and taking at least 1 bite of everything.  They fast discovered we love Donners, Pizza with salami is almost as good as sausage and pepperoni and coffee with kuchen is the favorite meal of any day.

That said, we have now been in Germany for 8 months and we are missing a few things.  Some things I can make something similar at home.  Some things I can’t figure out why they don’t already exist here?!?

In the land of coffee….  why is there no creamer?!  For a group of people that have centered an entire 4th meal of the day around another cup of coffee, why can’t I find any flavored creamer here?  I finally did some homework and learned that Milk Mädchen is pre-sweetened.  1 can of condensed milk, 1 3/4 cup regular milk, 2 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp cinnamon.  Viola.  Flavored, sweetened creamer for me!

And what is wrong with a bottle of Vanilla?  Doesn’t exist here.  You get vanilla sugar, or tiny little 5oz bottles of vanilla essence (don’t try that, it’s yucky), or you buy the slightly more expensive 5 oz bottle of liquored up vanilla bourbon (much better in a cookie by the way, but 5 oz does not go a long way).  The lovely huge bottle you see above was brought by my awesome parents from some Mexican flea market.

In the land of pork… why is there no sausage?  Now, if you go to the store and ask for sausage they will gladly point you to 15 varieties of brats and wurst.  And although they are good, it’s not the same as ground sausage or a good morning breakfast sausage.  So I looked it up (google is my friend) and discovered breakfast sausage is more of an Italian thing.  So, either I find an Italian butcher (which there are a few in Düsseldorf, just not that near me) or I learn to spice up my own.  So yesterday, I found a recipe and spiced up 3 lbs of ground pork to make my own sausage.  Did you know that fennel is the key ingredient in an Italian sausage?  Anyway, it turned out really good.  Not as fatty as sausage at home, probably was a higher quality ground pork but I can add some extra fat next time.  I used up a whole pound making Scottish eggs. YUM!

I am a big fan of spices.  I love mixing up my own and making my own blends.  I have made my own taco seasoning for years.  It’s super yummy.  I have a small obsession (or a large one, depending who you ask) with Mrs. Dash.  Thankfully Google has provided me several recipes to make my own… once my stash runs out.  I also have an awesome BBQ rub recipe I really like on my ribs or even on chicken.

Peanut butter is also a fun topic.  Think about how much we eat in America.  PB&J sandwiches are pretty much a staple.  Serving up apples or bananas?  Slap some peanut butter on it!  Serve it with ice cream or with your chocolate.  American’s have a love affair with Peanut butter.  I admit we used to go through 2 Costco jars every 4-6 weeks.  The dog helped.  Germans?  Not so much.  At least I can find peanut butter here… in tiny little jars.  My kids still are living on PB&J, just not at the same frequency.  And their idea of peanut butter cups?  Leaves a bit to be desired.  Thankfully, that is also easy to make.

All I need is a bit of brown sugar…  no not raw sugar.  Yes.  I know raw sugar is brown.  Proper brown sugar has molasses.  Molasses?  Its uh…  from sugarcane.  Molasses can be found on Amazon.  Proper brown sugar is not easy to make at home.  3 attempts later and I thankfully found a bag of brown sugar at a specialty Edeka grocery store.  I bought 4 bags and now I need to find more…. Probably on Amazon.  But raw sugar does not leave your cookies so nice and soft.  Soft cookies are an American thing.  Here cookies are crispy or flaky.  I have definitely found the thing to bring to any party – American cookies.

Then there are things we just can’t get here.  Mom and Dad brought us a huge box of goldfish which was promptly and happily eaten in 3 weeks (I helped, I love goldfish).  Ranch dressing is another.  A big thanks to Frau Cindy for sending us Ranch packets to make our own!

I guess creativity is the key here.  And family and friends who take pity on us and send us loves from home.  In return for chocolate.  Because… Kinderschokolade.

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