The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Yet more Rubbish!

Posted by rantingkraut on January 12, 2007

Recycling has been in the news again, and as always Germany is held up as an example, recycling more than anyone else etc. etc.

I won’t go into the debate of how useful recycling really is, that’s no fun. But there is one thing UK politicians ought to remember about Germany’s recycling mania. When recycling was first introduced in Germany, recycling containers for glass were put up in public places, then came different coloured dustbins for every house. These were emptied frequently –i.e. all kinds of rubbish were collected every week. Some time later, legislation was introduced to force shops to accept any packaging customers did not want to take home and some time after that additional charges were introduced for non-recyclable waste.

To put it concisely: first the recycling system was put to work. Once it worked as intended, people were charged for not using it. In the UK it seems to go the other way round. Local authorities are big on placing spy-chips in dust bins and are gung-ho about charging their subjects. As for regular and reliable recycling schemes –forget all about it. 

There is another point to it though: Germany is possibly the only country on earth to have turned recycling into a kind of secular religion. To a Brit, a trash can is somewhere to put the rubbish, to a kraut, the assortment of colour-coded recycling bins forms a kind of rainbow coloured altar. A German who puts a green bottle into the brown glass bin will be about as popular with his neighbours as a Satanist in the USA’s bible-belt. That’s why the UK will never be any good at recycling. You can’t be serious about worshipping garbage cans and have anything other than a German sense of humour.

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