Germans love to recycle. Well, I’m not really sure if they love it, or if they just do it because they should. Either way, Germany consistently has one of the highest rates of recycling in Europe, at around 60% of all waste. I’d assume a big part of that is the Pfand system for bottles, especially beer bottles. Another part is the fact that the whole country uses the same system of waste management. For example, each neighborhood has these big bins you bring your recycling to. The bins are just a short walk away, and anyway it’s a reason to get out of the house.
All across the country, these bins are for glass (separated into clear, green, and brown), plastic, and aluminum. We separate these categories of recyclables ourselves and later take them to the bins. For the regular trash, paper, and biodegradable waste, our building has bins within the complex for us to bring the trash to. It works quite well, and I’ve noticed that personally, I produce less trash here than in the US.
Bottles and Pfand
But enough about waste management strategies. This post is about “Pfand” or the deposit you pay for most plastic and glass bottled beverages you buy. Be it at a cafe, supermarket, drink market, or any other place that sells bottled drinks, you’ll have to pay the deposit in addition to the price of the drink.
The cost ranges from 8 cents for those typical half-liter bottles to 25 cents for some plastic bottles and those special swing-top bottles. Also, cases of beer here are not flimsy cardboard boxes. Instead, a “Kasten” is a thick plastic crate (think of a sort of beefed-up milk crate), scuffed and scratched up after years of use and reuse. It comes with a Pfand of around 1.50 Euro.
Again, remember, this is a deposit. You get the Pfand back when you bring the bottles and the Kasten back. However, sometimes, you might want to bring a roadie with you. Remember, there are no open container laws here, so enjoying a “Wegbier” (literally a “way/trip beer”) is totally normal. In fact, I’d encourage it.
Of course, you aren’t going to carry around that bottle the rest of the night so you could recycle it later. Don’t worry, it will still get recycled! You may lose out on that 8 cents, but somebody else will benefit. Many people, usually poorer or in need of a small side income, strafe the streets and parks for bottles. They gather up all sorts of bottles and redeem the Pfand on them for a little cash. Simply leave your empty bottle by a bench or garbage bin on the sidewalk, and you can bet it will be picked up.
So that’s about all you would need to know about recycling in Germany and Pfand if you travel or move to the country. I just wanted to portray the successes of the recycling systems here. But, I also wanted to give you an idea of what to expect at the cash register when buying that first case of beer for your own house warming party. If you have any questions about Pfand or the system of recycling in Germany, just comment below! I’d appreciate it, and I’d be glad to help.