Recycling in Germany vs. the USA
A few years ago, we had the pleasure of hosting an intern from Germany. As part of her internship, we allowed her to write about her experience for our blog. In her post, she shared how recycling in Germany was much different from recycling in the U.S. Here's what she had to say.
I’m from Germany and I have been in the United States for six months and traveling throughout the whole country.
So, I saw a lot of different places and I noticed that recycling, in general, is different than in Germany.
We recycle everything and we separate everything. We have biological waste, which we use for composting. Then, we have paper, plastic, glass and household waste separate. We also separate the different kinds of glass, like green glass, white glass and brown glass. I’ve never seen that in the USA. And in my experience, most people here throw everything in the same garbage.
Now I’m doing an internship at Foam Equipment + Consulting Co. and hear a lot about recycling and recognize that I don’t know much about that.
Then, I started to think about it.
In school, we’ve never talked about recycling our normal garbage. We were only taught about recycling nuclear waste. But now I think it would make more sense if we learn something about recycling our garbage first and then studying about the big problem with nuclear waste.
This got us thinking. Exactly how different is recycling in Germany vs. the U.S.? Germany has been ranked first in the world for recycling collection rates. On the other hand, Germany is also one of the largest plastic producers and processors in Europe. And about 60% of packaging waste in the country is incinerated.
How did we compare? In a 2017 report from Eunomia that was designed to take a closer look at the world's top recycling leaders, of the top 25 countries on the list, we came in 25th. Out of 195 countries in the world, that doesn't seem bad. But the reality of it is, we have a lot of work to do, especially for sustainability's sake.
What is Recycling in Germany Like?
Germany produces about 30 million tons of garbage yearly. A significant amount of garbage has been reduced over the years through the Green Dot program, which encourages retailers and manufacturers to fulfill the obligations of Germany's Packaging Ordinance. They are also required to be financially responsible for the collection and recycling of their packaging. Because of this initiative, Germany has a fairly rigorous recycling program. When it comes to recycling in the U.S., most of us have trash bins and recycling bins for curbside collection. In Germany, people may have up to five color-coded collection bins for materials like paper, glass, aluminum, polystyrene and composite packaging. Sorting these materials has been instrumental in helping the country secure its place as a top recycler