Monday, August 25, 2014

Deposit Rings for Freiburg?

Since 2003 Germany recycles containers for liquids. The system distinguishes between Einweg (one way) like plastic bottles and cans and Mehrweg (multiple use) mostly glass bottles. While an Einweg container will add a deposit of 25 euro cents to your bill when you buy your bottled drink, the deposit for Mehrweg varies between 8 and 15 eurocents per container.

It needed quite a investment in machinery for accepting all those empty cans and bottles customers carry back to retail stores and super markets in return for vouchers. The receiving machines had to be made foolproof and will now reject any bottles from neighboring France or Switzerland not being charged with a deposit. There is one positive effect of Germany's sophisticated deposit system. Our environment is kept quite clean from empty bottles and cans.

However, for some people especially tourists it is too cumbersome to carry their empty bottles to a collecting machine, receive their voucher, and claim their deposit of 8 to 25 euro cents waiting in the checkout line of a nearby super market. They simply throw their empty bottles into public waste bins. This behavior opens a market for mostly penniless collectors. Equipped with their bare hands or specially made hooks they pick the empty bottles out of the bins. The pan-German collecting of bottles is so impressive that Sebastian Moser at the University of Freiburg even wrote a thesis about this phenomenon.

A bottle collector searching a waste bin (©ap)
Considering rummaging the waste as humiliating a student of design, Paul Ketz, developed a Pfandring (deposit ring) while on a university course titled Für ein sauberes Köln (For a clean Cologne). The deposit rings are placed around public waste bins and take all empty bottles and cans. Paul got the Federal Prize Ecodesign and several newspapers wrote about his idea but its implementation leaves something to be desired.

A Pfandring in Bamberg (©dpa)
This is why two city councilors of the Social Democrats sent a letter to Mayor Salomon asking him whether
- the city and the municipal waste management had already thought about the installation of Pfandringe in Freiburg,
- they regard the installation as useful considering ecological, social, and ordnungsrechtspolitische (what a terrible word that I translated into regulatory and political) aspects,
- he, Salomon, could imagine a testing phase for deposit rings in the inner city.

Only the city of Bamberg has so far introduced Pfandringe on a trial basis. The experience is positive as the rings are sometimes full but suddenly empty again. Such a system will allow bottle collectors to recuperate most of the plastic bottles which are subsequently recycled and not burned with the other waste.


  1. There are also Pfandringe in other cities like Magdeburg, Cologne, Bielefeld and Karlsruhe.

  2. Danke für den Hinweis. Bei Bielefeld bin ich nicht so sicher. Siehe:

  3. Im letzten facebook-Beitrag steht es zumindest geschrieben: