Germans are pretty good at recycling. We sort our waste almost religiously – there are strict guidelines what to put in which coloured bin (and the sanctions for not following the rules are pretty harsh: the garbage just isn’t picked up if the collectors notice an infringement). Unfortunately, the rules and colours differ in different areas which can be confusing but there is usually someone happy to lecture you at length on the correct way. Most beverages are sold in containers which are part of an extensive deposit system. Glass containers are overflowing, particularly after the holidays. And clothes collection bins from private and charitable organisations can be found everywhere.
However, Germany is also a good example that recycling sounds good but that the resulting warm, fuzzy feeling about “living green” comes with lots of problems: plastic garbage is on the increase, most of the collected plastic is burnt rather than recycled, collected clothes are either ripped up and burnt or shipped to Africa where the local clothing industry is severely damaged.
So – isn’t precycling the way to go? “Precycling” is a neologism to describe the old concept of waste minimisation or prevention. Plastic bags in stores are sold rather than given away for free. Stores encourage reusable bags for vegetables and fruit, the scales are adjusted accordingly. It’s now possible (somewhat hampered by COVID – but what isn’t?) to bring your own containers to bakeries and butcheries rather than having your goods packed in plastic and paper. Stores where only loose products are sold are on the rise, even big supermarkets now have “loose product” stations.
When it comes to clothes and consumer items – there is a real simple solution: Buy less. The question: “Do I really need this?” can be quite helpful.
The Friendly Friday Challenge: Recycling.