February 5, 2011

Trash Day = Judgement Day

How many trashes do you have in your house?? No, I'm not talking about the kitchen trash can, the bathroom trash can, the office trash, etc. I am talking types of piles. I am guessing, at least for all my North American readers, you probably have one, a general, all-in-one trash pile. Maybe two or three if you are a kind enough citizen to recycle cans and newspapers.

But here in Germany, we have SIX different trash/recycling piles. Yes SIX in our tiny apartment. Why?? Because we have to. And I really hate being yelled at in German.

A scene from Hoarders or our house the day before trash day. You decide. (source)

Think I am being a little extreme? Think again. We have come to discover that you can easily get yelled at for lots of things here in Germany if you put your mind to it (go for it, get down and break a sweat...anyone?)! 

It's not that the Germans are mean people, we just seem to screw up something or another. Yep, they gotta love us North Americans. You name it, we have probably gotten yelled at, or at least very stern German looks, for it. (And trust me, when you don't understand most of it, the yelling can be pretty intimidating!) Actually, getting yelled at seems to be the one thing we are actually good at in Germany.

And of course, by far the easiest way to get into trouble is to throw away the trash. You might think, 'What can be so hard about throwing away trash, it seems so simple? You. Couldn't. Be. More. Wrong. With 6 trashes, it can go terribly wrong.

Most likely your punishment if you do the trash wrong. (source)

And disclaimer note, I might be complaining a bit, but I do really love recycling and being umweltfreundlich. In the 5th grade, me and my besty even started a "Save the Earth Club". So yeah, I am a long time member of the tree hugger association. 

Even my in-laws who were visiting last week were terrified to put something in the wrong trash. They catch on quickly.

First, there is the plastic recycling. This is an absolute must. No ifs, ands, or buts. Households, businesses, restaurants, everyone complies. You don't even want to know what happens if you don't.

Mmmm, smells nice. (source)

Yellow sacks, or Gelbe Sack, are supplied by the city. The Germans even joke that the second thing you learn in German is "Gelbe Sack"; obviously behind "Noch ein Bier, bitte". And the recycling is picked up regularly just like the normal trash. Which is pretty convenient, because in Houston you have to haul it to another location. BUT there is a catch. The plastics must be washed and completely clean of food particles. No dirty trash allowed in Germany!

Then there is the Glass recycling. For any bottle that does not have a Pfand, or deposit, you have to collect your glass, sort it into colors, then take it to the appropriate bins.
I always think they look like something out of star wars. Who knows!? (source)

Ok, I get it, recycling glass is also important. But there are strict rules on these bins. They read something like this: 

"Clean glass, no top, no label (what I am supposed to do, boil the dang thing??). You may only deposit the glass on weekdays between 8am - 12pm and 1:30pm - 5pm. And on every other Saturday between 10am - 1pm."

So what, I drive to the bins, see that it is 12:02 on a Wednesday and turn around and go home?? I think not. The more ridiculous the hours are, the later I go and the louder I throw the bottles in. Yeah, that's right, I am a badass rebel. (please don't turn me in!)

Our regular collection of glass. *Note, we do not have a drinking problem, this was over a long period of time. So please don't send me AA links. Thanks :)

As for all the bottles that have a deposit on them, we keep those separate so we can return them....eventually. They tend to pile up. I swear we aren't messy or gross or anything.
I really don't mind this one though. You get money back at the grocery store, which is a total bonus in my eyes. Although you are just getting money back that you already paid, a concept still lost on me! Also, it is apparently appropriate behavior to dumpster dive for Pfand bottles that have gone astray. Lovely.

What are we up to, 3 now?

Then there is the paper trash. Eff you paper trash. There are so many rules to this one, and the owners of the farm are pretty anal about the freakin' paper trash. Hey, you know what, if I went through the trouble of separating the plastic and paper from a tiny little package, then I deserve to put it in the paper recycling any way I please. They are always warning us to 'tear the paper up into small bits'. Um no, I like the world, but my hate for paper cuts is stronger. :)
(and no joke, as I write this, the hubs is literally cussing out the paper as he is trying to stack it all. Good boy)
What our paper trash starts off like, neatly behind the trash. 

And what it ends up looking like at the end of the week.

My goodness, there's more. The Bio trash. The bane of the hubs' existence. I don't think all Germans do this one, but seeing that we are now farm folk, we are required to have a bio trash.
The small red trash is the Bio. Or as I like to refer to it, barf in a can!

In North America, we just throw all of our vegetable peels, left overs, and food garbage into the garbage disposal and down it goes. No such thing as garbage disposals here, just a nice smelly little sack to store all the nasty bits. And boy does it ferment quickly! The hubs won't touch or go near it. We have it locked up tight, so it doesn't smell. But opening that lid makes me gag. I am gagging right now thinking about it. Blech!

I am not 100% sure why they do this on the farm here. It is not that they use it to fertilize the flower beds. That is what the horse manure is for. That, and for me accidentally stepping in it about once a week. Thanks guys!

It smells great around here when it rains!

And last but not least, the 'everything else' garbage. It consists mostly of paper towels, which cannot be put in the paper trash despite their name, and other bits of 'dirty' paper or plastic that cannot be recycled. 

The farm hand goes through every thing you throw away to make sure that you didn't trash anything you weren't supposed to. Seriously, he opens the bags and inspects everyone's nasty, smelling trash bags. And I can't help but feel like it's judgment day when we throw out the trash.

But who am I to judge, maybe he is just looking for pfand bottles. And in that case, it is still pretty dang gross.


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  1. Wow! Where I live we have to bring it ourselves to recycle or get our money back for deposits. Doesn't it contradict itself when you have to drive somewhere to recycle? just saying


  2. Gosh, that is just so much organization! I agree with CBG above, doesn't it contradict itself when you have to drive somewhere to recycle?! And how do you separate paper from plastic? What happens to the paper boxes that are coated with plastic .. Never thought taking trash out would be so scary! All the best :)

  3. That was quite hilarious! I don't think I would make it in Germany. I was excited about the recycling trash can that we got a few months ago. Separating the trash sounds like a full time job. Good luck!

  4. Oy... My head's spinnin' Tex! However do you keep it all straight?!?!

  5. Yikes.. i can't leave a comment... wow.. great post... following you from weekend wanderer.. would love a follow back..now i'm going to snoop some more on your blog

  6. Geeze! That's alot of sorting and work!

    Found you on the blog hop! I'm your newest follower! Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. @ Canadian - it really does sound backwards now that you mention it!
    @Apfel - I am just as confused at times as you are right now. And if something is paper and plastic (like paper envelopes with plastic padding) you have to separate them. Too much work for trash if you ask me!
    @Yotes - Haha, I don't. Hence the yelling :)
    @Laura - haha, thank you. And thanks for stopping by. I'll stop over and check out yours too!
    @Jenny - no kidding. Thanks for stopping by. You have a great weekend too!

  8. haha...its almost the same in Sweden but its a little bit easier when you have a house. But it makes me wonder when I look at India and what they do with their garbage..hmm not so much recycling there.

  9. Oh, man, That was HILarioUS! Growing up with a German father and grandfather, I knew that everything had a place, and everything in its place. I rebelled by having the messiest, most cluttered bedroom you have ever seen. Now I have children, and you know what they say about paybacks!

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I'll be back...

  10. That is crazy! I bet it took forever to figure everything out. Why are they suck sticklers?

  11. @ Mrs K - you're right, I bet it isn't fair for me to just say that about Germany. And I can't even imagine what it is like on some of those countries that just junk everything together!
    @Annie - well thanks, glad I could entertain! And that is too funny about your German dad and granddad. Those Germans are such sticklers for their rules. I don't mind it at times, but when it is like this, its pretty difficult!
    @April - I think we are still learning, haha. And I get that they don't have as much 'room' for trash, so they recycle. But still, this is a bit much!

  12. Wow! Great informative post.

    I just found your blog through one of the blog hops. Have a great weekend!

    Amanda @ www.nutritionistreviews.com

  13. I would not do well in Germany! I wouldn't do well with having to separate my trash!

  14. Yeah, ask me! I am in India right now! You could just throw something out your window and no one would care. I am one of the only few in my locality who actually throws the garbage in the public bin. Most of the garbage you'll find is AROUND the garbage bin..Ugh! Rest they have the garbage guys who collect the trash from home each morning. But they all do the same, go and dump it somewhere else!

  15. @ Amanda - thanks for stopping by! You have a great weekend too :)
    @Poekitten - I am not a fan of the trash either. It is the hubs' job to take it all out at the end of the day. That and raw meat are my two bugaboos!
    @Apfel - are you serious?!? Holy cow! Wow, I have heard stories, but geez, what a mess. And I guess at least you are doing your part, but if the other billion aren't then I guess you are out of luck

  16. Hysterical!! Like most, I wouldn't survive in Germany either; have enough difficulty here in trying to return bottles and end up having wars with bottle machines who spit cans/bottles back out at me.

    Here in upstate NY, when we built our home 20+ years ago, the construction crew found car parts from a 40's Willy's Jeep when they excavated for the foundation. Mind you we have six acres surrounded by another 26; very secluded but, somewhere in the past, someone managed a partial burial for an engine, fenders and two tires.

    My hubby wanted to keep them and go digging for the rest of the vehicle...

  17. Okay...since no one else did...

    Germany: We Are So Trash Efficient!

    Also known as WASTE Nazi, or in the colloquial, Trash Nazi. Not to be confused with the genus Grammar Nazi, which is found in online forums.

    Serious now, here they collect it from our curb every other week. I'm not always getting it out on the appointed day. But since moving here, I now recycle whereas before, it was like, "meh, can't be bothered."

    This post of yours? Very well written.

  18. @ Slidecutter - oh my goodness, i forgot to mention something about those damn bottle collector machines. I yell at them in grocery stores, no joke! Let me know when you remodel your car with those 'new' parts :)
    @Mollie - yes, yes, yes double fist pump in the air yes. Thanks for saying what I couldn't. I knew I could rely on you!!! And thanks lady :)

  19. Sounds crazy, but I suppose it has a purpose! Great post

  20. OH MY GOSH, 6 DIFFERENT TRASHES? I cannot even handle 2- no joke, I get it wrong all the time! I would officially fail at life living there- I really don't like getting yelled at;-)

  21. @ Amanda - yeah the purpose is to drive me insane! haha
    @Shalyn - seriously, who can keep them straight. And I am with you, i HATE being yelled out. Nothing makes me feel like a 10 year old more than getting a stern lecture.

  22. Oh my God this is a very shocking news! D:

  23. OMG ... I can't even tell you how many times I screwed up the trash. I was so confused. And just when I thought I had it down, I'd get yelled at again.

  24. man, I would hate to be the guy that has to go through all of your trash!

    And the bottle picture you had to explain kind of looks like a college party to me :)

  25. @HW - haha, didn't you just love getting yelled at in German?!
    @Mal - ewww, he is so weird, and that is so gross. They are just crazy about their trash I guess! Shhh, we are still living the college kind of life, don't tell! :)

  26. You are one tough cookie to deal with that! Love your bog...and your sweetness! :)

  27. You are too funny. I know what you mean about the trash. Here in Tennessee, noone cares about recycling. It's totally voluntary. Now, when I go visit my family in Germany every year, I am afraid to throw anything away! My sister said that the trash nazis gave her a fine once because the lid from a joghurt container still had joghurt on it! Another friend of mine who worked at the EU told me that in the end, they throw it all on one pile anyway. It's just done to terrorize the common folk. I enjoy reading your stories. Helga

  28. @Bristol - well glad they could strike the fear in you too! Haha, too funny. Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed!

  29. I make fun of my Canadian for his curling all the time -- he tries to say that Curlers are athletes but I think a sport has to be defined as one that does not include smoking AND drinking on the ice (which I have seen both at the Fort William Curling Club in Thunder Bay, ON)


Whoomp, there it is!