TGIF Chronicles – Recycling in Germany: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story

First enjoy decoding the pick-up schedule

Page 1

It’s a dark and stormy night. The steady drizzle is beginning to pick up and a burst of lightning cuts the late evening sky. Boom! As you rush to close the windows, you sigh as you think of the task ahead of you, as dreary as the weather. All of your guests have left, but the mess from dinner remains. And that means it’s time to sort out the trash and recycling.

Do you start with the food? (Go to page 2)

Or sort out the rest? (Go to page 3)







Page 2


Müll can labeled only with a raptor (?)
Müll can labeled only with a raptor (?)

Egg shells, coffee grinds, avocado peels, cherry pits, leftover rice… you scrape them all into the Bioabfӓlle, or “Bio-rubbish,” container. Chicken bones, salmon skin, and the rest of the leftover meat and fish go into the regular Müll, or trash, can. Another crash of thunder shakes the window panes. You’ll have to work fast if you want to take the trash outside tonight.

Do you stay inside and finish sorting? (Go to page 3)

Or are you in the mood for a drive? (Go to page 4)










Page 3


You pat yourself on the back for being a good citizen and start collecting the rest of the junk to sort out. You’ve done this so many times that it goes quickly. You toss the milk carton, egg carton, yogurt cups, and so on into the Verpackungen, or packaging, container. Along the way, you come across a cardboard cereal box and remember that you have some old mail and newspapers on the table too. You throw these into the Altpapier, or old paper, container.

You put the empty plastic water and soda bottles and glass beer bottles into the crates from the Getrӓnke (drinks) shop. You’ll have to wait until the store is open again tomorrow so you can return them for change back. The dead batteries will have to wait too – you can drop them into the battery recycling box at the office supply store tomorrow.

All of a sudden, the wind picks up outside and you think you hear a knock at the door.

Do you answer the door and take the recycling out with you? (Go to page 5)

Or do you wait and finish what you’re doing? (Go to page 6)









Page 4


You find all of the miscellaneous glass jars and bottles – a mustard jar, a salad dressing bottle, a lone bottle of wine you bought on vacation – and pack them into your car. With the windshield wipers on full blast, you drive around the corner and down the street a ways until you come to three large dumpsters. Now you have to sort the glass by color: clear, brown, and green (which also includes any other colors). Your umbrella blows inside out and you can hardly hear the clink of the glass being sorted.

Do you go home? (Go to page 9)

Or do you stay here and try to wait out the storm before driving back? (Go to page 10)








Page 5

It’s your neighbor Stefan. He’s come by to see if you need anything and you immediately hand him all of your recycling and trash to dump in the larger containers outside. He is surprised, but helps anyway.

Do you invite him in for a piece of cake? (Go to page 8)

Or do you turn him back out into the storm and get back to work? (Go to page 4)













Page 6

You stand still for a moment but don’t hear the knock again. Maybe it was just your imagination. You sweep up the kitchen floor and put the dust and crumbs in with the regular trash (Müll). Raggedy paper towels and any other scraps or things you aren’t sure of get put here too. You do wonder if anyone was at that door though…

Do you answer the door now? (Go to page 5)

Or are you too afraid to do anything but stay inside? (Go to page 7)













Page 7

Nervously, you turn the lights out and wrap yourself in a blanket. You hear more knocking, clearly this time, but it becomes fainter and fainter until it stops altogether. You look around and realize you still have more recycling to do. Hopefully things will seem better tomorrow when the sun comes out again. You go to bed safely but dream of being swallowed up by a mound of trash.














Page 8

Stefan declines your invitation. Maybe he was a little put off by your rudeness. At any rate, you wave goodbye and get back to work. (Go to page 4)
















Page 9

You survived yet another night of recycling and you go to bed content. You dream about saving the earth and creating more complicated rules.

















Page 10

You get back into the car and doze off for a while in the parking lot. You dream about flying over a sea of colorful broken glass. Slowly you begin falling and the colors fade to total darkness…

You awake with a start and find that your car is sinking in a mudslide! (Unlikely in Germany? Maybe. But in a choose-your-own-adventure story, it’s only to be expected.) You try to get out, but it’s too late. Your last thoughts revolve around wondering whether you and the car can become compost or whether one of you should be somewhere else…



On the Daily

IMG_1715   Most of the new year so far has been spent settling into a fantastic new apartment and getting used to daily life in Germany.  I just completed an extremely well-taught German class (five mornings per week – the perfect routine while still applying for jobs) and signed up for the next session which begins next week.  Back at the apartment, I’ve been getting used to using an induction stove and oven in degrees Celsius, converting recipes measurements to or from the metric system (we measure butter in cups but here it’s in grams, which aren’t even comparable units), and adjusting to a German washer and dryer.  When James and I first looked at the laundry area (which the Italian restaurant downstairs also uses for one of their refrigerators) on our walkthrough, I saw the water hook-ups but asked where the vent was for the dryer.  Here, however, the dryer collects water in a compartment that you have to empty after each load and doesn’t need a vent.  The washer and dryer are much smaller compared to those in America and are high-efficiency, which also translates to requiring almost two hours per machine.IMG_1723

We are very fortunate to have a great deal of built-in storage in our apartment, which is unusual here.  In addition, like most German apartments, we have a storage room in the basement (der Keller) for things like suitcases and bikes.  I was wondering if the cathedrals have a giant room like that to house all of the Christmas market stalls during the other eleven months of the year.  We also have floorboard heating which is, interestingly enough, rather common here.  Our apartment even has a Wintergarten, which is a sunroom that can be used for as much garden as you care to take care of.IMG_1713

I have no complaints about living here but the most complicated aspect of daily life so far has been, without a doubt, managing the recycling.  Behind our building outside there are containers for four different types of waste, and that doesn’t even cover everything we’re responsible for sorting.  Similar to in the U.S., there is a container for paper (Altpapier = old paper), packaging (which mostly includes plastic containers and metal cans), and trash (our garbage can inexplicably has a sticker of a velociraptor but no label).  Additionally, there’s a container for Biorubbish, or fruit and vegetable peels, etc.  Plastic bottles, however, need to be returned to the same store we bought them from in exchange for change back.  And the glass is another story.  The nearest glass recycling receptacles are about a kilometer away.  Once there, the glass has to be further sorted into one of three containers:  white, brown, or green (which can include any other colors of glass as well).  As you can imagine, all of these categories really challenge my love of recycling and make storage at home convoluted.  I haven’t found anything more efficient so far than a small trash can, Biorubbish container, and paper/packaging container in the kitchen, in addition to a crate for plastic bottles and a box for glass bottles in the closet.IMG_1707