minimal culture

A Survival Guide To Recycling in Germany

One of the most immediate culture shocks of traveling to Germany, especially if you grew up in the United States, is Germany’s seeming obsession with recycling. Whereas in the U.S. you are lucky if you can locate a recycling bin in public areas like parks or street corners, you’ll have the opposite problem in Germany, where you’ll find a sometimes confusing plethora of multi-colored bins. If you have been in this situation, looking around desperately to strangers or waiting to see what items other drop in each bin, we feel you. YOU are not alone. Even Germans sometimes question which bin is appropriate for which items.

Due to this common culture shock and the often harsh punishment one receives for a wrong move, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on German recycling.

Step 1: Prevent creating waste in the first place

Germany has created and continues to develop a culture of minimal waste. This is true for projects big and small: here are a few examples of major reducers of waste.

Bag fee: Germany combats the environmental threat of excessive plastic bag-use by adding a small fee onto bags at stores. Even though it’s small, the fee has further motivated people to bring their own reusable bags or carts to stores. Some stores now don’t offer plastic bags at all–opting instead to offer paper bags for those who need them.

Lack of excess packaging: Say tschüss to those individually wrapped fruit packages or items wrapped individually in plastic, then wrapped collectively in plastic.

Quality over quantity: According to a 2016 report by Germany Trade and Invest, Germans are well researched and particular consumers. They are much more risk averse and likely to return items that don’t meet their expectations. This makes things like quality labels or reviews really important and generally lends towards a population that has fewer, but higher quality possessions that don’t need constant replacement.

Step 2: Pfand

Imagine if, for every bottle–plastic or glass, you bought, you had to pay extra for it. The deal in Germany is that you pay more initially but then receive that surcharge back when you give the bottles back for recycling. So, just like when you weekly take the garbage out in the States, in Germany it is a regular habit to return your bin of recycling to super markets where you will find a machine like this:

This machine scans the bar code of your items, and prints a receipt for you to redeem at the register. Basically, if you don’t recycle your eligible items for Pfand, you are losing money.

As a tourist, you have potentially experienced Pfand in a different way. At Christmas markets, stands will charge you extra for the mug that hot drinks are served in. You can choose to keep the mug as a memento, or to return it for Pfand.

You may have also been asked for your empty bottle in public by someone collecting them to return. This is potentially convenient for you, earns them a little money by returning them AND it is good for the earth. Triple whammy! There are even entire non-profits that fund themselves by collecting Pfand at events or concerts.

Step 3: Choose your bin

This part sounds really uncomplicated from an American perspective. Trash or recycling…right?

After giving back bottles for Pfand, Germans sort trash typically by paper, plastic, bio/organic, glass, and other. Though details are dependent on town or region, a general breakdown goes like this:

Paper= blue bins. This bin is for cardboard, newspapers, magazines, waste paper, paper bags, etc, etc.

Plastic = Yellow bins. This is for plastic such as body wash, shampoo, sunscreen, laundry detergent, and juice bottles

Glass= Glass is sorted by color. There are different slots for depositing green, brown and clear glass. In this bin you should be putting any kind of jars (mustard, jam, yogurt, etc), oil bottles, wine bottles or the like.

Bio (organic) = green bins. This is for food waste like egg shells, banana peel, or scraps of food you didn’t eat.

Other = black bins. You choose your size and you’re charged accordingly. They send you a sticker each year to show that you’ve paid for it. Residual waste is garbage that neither includes pollutants nor reusable components. For example ash, dust bag, cigarette ends, rubber, toiletries, and diapers are thrown into the black bin.

Step 4: Enjoy a cleaner earth!

Though the effect of one person caring about the environment is small, the collective effort of a nation makes a dent. Germany leads the European nations in recycling, with around 70 percent of the waste the country generates successfully recovered and reused each year.

Recycling is only one part of Germany’s environmental efforts. Find more about national and local environmental initiatives here: http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/07-Econ-Energy-Innovation/01-Energy-Climate-Env/Energy-Climate-Env.html

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THE MOST IMPORTANT HOUSE IN IRANIAN MODERNISM IS BEING THREATENED WITH DEMOLITION. YOU CAN HELP

Villa Nemazee by Gio Ponti [1957] in Tehran, Iran in collaboration with Fausto Melotti and Paolo De Poli [1957-64]. 

Please sign this petition and save Iranian architectural heritage.

https://www.change.org/p/to-prevent-demolition-of-nemazee-villa-designed-by-italian-architect-gio-ponti

i’ve been bitten by the zutara bug once more so heres some headcanons no one asked for
  • if firelord zuko and firelady katara cant solve an issue diplomatically, they’ll both sneak out at night tsr ninja-style and solved the problem the old fashioned way. eventually when their kids get older they find out and also have to be included
  • katara often makes tea with iroh, who claims that tea tastes best when she’s involved bending the water to flatter her (i can totally see iroh lowkey flirting with her to piss zuko off tho)
  • for katara’s first birthday with zuko, he spends hours personally searching the fire palace’s ancient vaults and finds Southern waterbending scrolls to give her
  • eating together. sparring together. bathing together
  • also zuko is very invested in Southern heritage and culture and preserving and encouraging it even though they’re in the fire nation. he hires water tribe staff and advisors, and introduces new sections on the school curriculum to teach about all nations, customs and cultures. they even celebrate water tribe festivals together and honour their gods
  • of course they feed the turtle ducks together
  • as fire lady, katara has a massive role in politics, campaigning for the rights of marginalised people within the fire nation and beyond, and is a catalyst for seismic social change instead of just being the avatars gf lol im not salty
  • growing up in the rural, patriarchal South, katara never quite gets used to royal life and its perks, and is too polite to the servants to the point of awkwardness, much to the other royals’ amusement
  • she advocates for them getting pets. soon, the fire palace is brought alive by the pitter-patter of furry feet, and iroh claims it has never been better since her arrival
  • when katara is pregnant, zuko won’t let her lift a finger and frets constantly about the baby
  • katara tries smoking after being teased mercilessly by her husband for being uncultured. it’s the first and last time she smokes
  • their children wear blue and red, as well as purple. the royal family are responsible for starting a purple trend in the fire nation
  • iroh and hakoda are very close and tease their respective children mercilessly
  • they often double date with other members of the gaang. iroh regularly shows up late to these gatherings with a date of his own
  • katara loathes fire nation delicacies and introduces more mild, palatable dishes to the kitchen. the multi-cultural palace staff are eternally grateful
  • katara bemoans the dark décor of the palace and endeavours to make over the fire palace with iroh in zuko’s absence. katara thinks a hint of water tribe blue would brighten the place, as iroh tries to add earth green and air yellow to the palace. in the end, they settle on more windows and gold to replace black as katara bends more ponds in the gardens. she also hires master earthbending florists for the gardens. the palace has never looked more bright or more beautiful
  • at fire nation only events, katara dons traditional red garb with minimal blue. at multi-cultural gatherings she wears full water tribe regalia to honour her culture, and asks zuko to wear something blue also
  • they both swear by agni, as well as tui and la
  • zuko bans agni kais and discourages political marriages, using katara as an example
  • he always carries a small bottle of water with him just in case katara happens to be without her water skins
  • when she gets too homesick, he lets her to take time off (even when she refuses to) to waterbend, or visit home. as well as that, he constantly surprises her by having her family over to visit without her knowledge

feel free to add more!!!!

yeah, i’m aware that nobody is literally cornering gay children in alleyways and saying “you must identify as demisexual” i’m aware of that. but that’s not the only way to exert cultural pressure and you’re really oblivious if you don’t recognize the social dynamics on this site (and frankly, on most neoliberal sites and in similar irl spaces) that do push gay kids to compartmentalize and ignore and minimize their attraction. culture is not always an obvious, blatant, open thing and you have to break out the critical thinking machine once in a while if you want to be taken seriously in these discussions