Monday, June 9, 2008

Müll: garbage

Ooh, pretty colored sacks! Can you guess what this guy is doing? Why the colors? If you haven't been t0 Germany I would be surprised if you got it right. Germany is exemplary at sorting their trash. Everywhere there are bins for glass, paper, plastic, other. This guy is going through the train station in Saarbrücken, emptying the public receptacles.This random post is inspired by a fascinating article in the New York Times on garbage disposal. In the US, we have space. Lots of it. So we don't really think about trash very often. It gets taken away, out of sight out of mind.
Italy has a huge problem right now. They generate a ton of trash and don't have a plan for getting rid of it. So they are currently shipping their trash to Hamburg, Germany.

Hamburg, where the green party is very strong, is amazing:

"This city of about 1.8 million people produced 1.6 million tons of garbage a year in 1999, and only 50,000 tons went to recycling. Today, despite growing in size, it generates only 1.4 million tons; 600,000 tons of it is incinerated [and the energy produced is captured and used] and 800,000 tons of it is recycled"

"To reduce landfills’ use, governments are encouraged to reuse, recycle and then incinerate if necessary. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends a similar “waste management hierarchy,” with landfills as the last option."

Of course individuals can start to make steps by recycling and trying to reduce on packaging (buying in bulk, choosing products with less packaging or recyclable packaging), but it really has to be governmentally organized to make a big impact.

Even when I spend time in France it makes me realize how amazing Germany's system is, let alone when I'm back in the US. When you buy bottles here--plastic, glass or aluminum--you pay up to 25cents per bottle deposit on it, which you get back when you turn in the bottles. Sometimes people just need a monetary incentive to change their habits.

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