Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Garbage Story

When we lived in Geneva we had three big garbage containers for my neighbors and my family. You just threw in any rubbish, kitchen scraps, broken furniture, paper, glass and plastic bottles, obsolete electronics, e.g., whole television sets, and garden waste. You just name it. A garbage truck came by once a week and emptied the containers.

In an earlier blog I informed you that Freiburg has an elaborate system for the separation of waste using a green (?) container for paper, a brown bin for organic compostable stuff, and a yellow plastic bag for used packaging materials. All these things will be recycled. But there is more separation. Near my house a row of containers accepts bottles of brown, green, and clear colored glass separately, and in addition there are special bins for scrap metal, used electronics, and clothing.

Materials that cannot be recycled are regarded as Restmüll (garbage) and go into a dark-gray bin. When we moved to Freiburg I roughly understood that I had to rent a standard Restmülltonne (garbage bin) with a capacity of 140 liters where the volume can be adjusted by an insert according to the needs. I had the choice between volumes of 35, 60, and 140 liters and a frequency of emptying the Tonne every one or two weeks.
35 Liter
60 Liter
140 Liter
36,78 €
63,12 €
147,12 €
73,56 €
126,24 €
294,24 €

Garbage generally "stinks" so I opted for a 60-liter volume to be emptied once a week and costing about 100 euros a year (prices have increased since then). The other household containers (brown, green, and yellow plastic sacks) are free of charge as recycling of materials largely compensates for the emptying of those bins.

My Restmülltonne had hardly arrived when my doorbell started ringing insistently. My neighbor was standing there: Das geht aber garnicht (That doesn't work at all) and started to give me a seminar in Müllogie (garbagery). Here in our building we have two garbage bins of 140 liters to be emptied once a week where we, the apartment owners, share the charge. You have to send back your private garbage bin and join our garbage club. She insisted so much that I became intimidated. I have to admit, the system of sharing worked fine as it does in my new apartment.

However, not all works well in the system. Some people try to minimize costs and choose a much too small volume for their garbage bin hoping that there will be free space in their neighbor's bin. If this is not the case they heap up their garbage so the lid of the bin can no longer be closed. This happens in 10% of all bins.

From today on Freiburg's garbage men will issue a warning in the form of a yellow sticker when the lid of a bin is not closed. The color will change from yellow to red starting November 1, and the garbage bin will be left behind un-emptied. Things are looking grim but the households concerned have three choices to get rid of their garbage:

Legally: You buy a special red Restmüllsack (garbage bags of 35 liters for 3,96 euros or 70 liters for 7,92 euros), fill the red plastic bag with your garbage, and have it wait to be collected the next week.

Semi-legally: You make small packages of your garbage and carry those to the nearest public waste bin.

Illegally: You dispose of your garbage somewhere in Freiburg and its surroundings.

With all those lids not closed and ticketed, some people fear a littered Freiburg. Will the Green City eventually need a Stadtkümmerer?

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