Recycling and Waste Separation in Germany
Germany is one of the world’s leading countries in terms of recycling and waste separation. Its recycling and waste separation system is one of the most progressive, and according to a 1998 survey, about 91% of German homeowners separate their waste in order to contribute to environmental protection; according to the German Society for Consumer Research (GfK), 83% of Germans disapprove of garbage incineration and 96% of disapprove landfill sites.
In 2004, about 5.2 million tons of packages were recycled, which equals 63 kg per capita. In 1991, the “dual” recycling system “Der Grüne Punkt” (The Green Dot) was introduced in Germany. Duales System Deutschland GmbH (translated “Dual System Germany Ltd.) is a private sector company that organizes the collection and the sorting of residual waste and packaging waste in order to recycle material. This system exempts packaging producers and packaging retailers from the obligation to take back the packages.
The Green Dot is a symbol on packages to inform customers that they can dispose of the package in certain containers for recycling: the yellow bag, the yellow recycling bin, the glass container and the paper container. The recyclable materials include glass, paper, beverage cartons, aluminum, tin plate, synthetic materials, and PET (a special material used for beverage, food and other liquid containers). In addition, there are recycling bins for residual waste (black color), paper (blue), and compost (brown). Consumers can either dispose of their waste in public containers or their own garbage bins.
The Packaging Regulation, which was implemented in 1991, obliges retailers to take back packages. According to the “polluter pays principle”, the “dual system” of waste collection, sorting and recycling is financed by license fees paid by retailers and industry. This helps prevent garbage at the source. The system is characterized by high technological standards and is constantly optimized and improved in efficiency.
The implementation of the Packaging Regulation has contributed considerably to avoiding waste and to reducing the use of packaging. Now, producers tend to save packaging material, or to switch to cardboard packaging instead of synthetic or non-recyclable materials. In addition, refill containers have are becoming more and more common.
The recycling system saves resources, relieves landfill sites and garbage incineration facilities and helps save energy and protect the climate. In 2004, package recycling saved about 73.2 billion mega joules of primary energy which equals about 20 billion kilowatt hours. (This is roughly 5% of Germany’ total energy consumption per year.)
Since its implementation, recycling has prevented about 1.06 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere.