Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Michael Stone Online

In Berlin, It Pays to Recycle

Being smart about waste has never been so green…environmentally and monetarily speaking.

On the sidewalks of Germany’s capital city, Berlin, you’ll see women and men peering into trash bins with flashlights or pushing around buggies rattling with glass and plastic. Some also proactively ask for bottles and cans right from people’s hands (it’s legal to consume alcohol on all streets, so there is plenty for pickin’).

I even saw a couple guys set up after dark with a large metal wagon in a nightlife-heavy district, layering it with hundreds of bottles.

The incentive is getting financial bang for your bio-friendly practice. At most every grocery store, there are what look like tall vending machines, equipped only with a circular hole in which to place your glass, plastic and aluminum drinking containers.

Then, in a quick burst of technological magic, the machine reads exactly what product you inserted and prints out coupon you can use toward groceries. Now, not every company’s bottles are accepted by the machines, even if they’re in perfect condition. From the best I can tell, those that are get organized in a back room, possibly for cleaning and returning to their actual companies.

Though I wasn’t there long enough to establish what the highest payday for a single bottle is, I did get as much as €0.15 (20 cents U.S.). Doesn’t seem like much, I know. But for true collectors, I’m sure a cart full would add up to several pretty pennies.

And though Germany has many social safety nets that prevent homelessness from happening after life’s dominos begin to fall, the recycling program seems like a good method of keeping people productive and staying away from panhandling.

More broadly, the program helps Germany, with its 70 percent rate of reusing waste, stay atop Europe’s recycling leader board.

The U.S. should most definitely take notes!

Here’s a quick visual of how it works:

1. Find a recycling machine in a store

Recycling Machine

2. Simply insert a bottle or can

Recycling Machine

3. Get paid

Recycling Payoff

 

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