The Big Green

17 Nov


The notion of recycling itself is a very simple one. Sorting out products into various bins, there’s not much to it. Eventually, the product is burned/melted down into a basic material that can be used once again to make other products, whether that is plastic, glass or paper. Certain countries are ahead of their time when it comes to recycling. I must compare the various recycling methods that I’ve seen so far during my time abroad.

The German recycling methods are impeccable. I’ve heard it said that the Germans make recycling a sport. While one may find this funny, I assure you that it’s completely true. The Germans have a very efficient system for recycling. Their very “green” view of the world makes it very easy to recycle, with facilities nearby in every city. They also recycle everything, excluding of course natural products.

The first recycling section is glass; you’ll find not just one bin but 3 separate ones. There’s one for green glass (wine bottles for example), another for brown glass (like some beer bottles) and another for white glass (any tomato sauce jars or various jars you can find in the supermarket). In addition, there is a metal bin for anything metal, ranging from zippers to heavier objects like old doors. The paper and cardboard are split up into two separate bins; of course, objects are built so that they are easy to break down into smaller parts. Next you’ll find a “Gelb sac” as the Germans call it. This is a bag that takes anything plastic and CLEAN. I stress the clean part, as not all countries require people to wash their recyclables before sorting them. Just to give you some examples, yogurt containers, chocolate candy wrappers, the plastic bags that you put fruit in at the store and rinsed milk cartons all go into the Gelb sac. The list is huge. Overall, these practices make for little to no trash. Some people also choose to use their leftover vegetable peels in their personal gardens for manure as well. In addition, people can choose to pick up buckets of dirt(provided by farms and other facilities) at the recycling facilities; there are two huge piles for people to take from. One simple needs a shovel and a bucket.

Now, let’s not forget plastic. Plastic is also another area of recycling that is very developed. The Pfand system is one that encourages people to recycle and has been met with success. People use plastic bottles, empty them and save them until the next time they go to the supermarket. Once they’ve reached the supermarket, they go into the store and to the machine at the end of the store. This machine accepts plastic bottles and some glass bottles as well; on average, you receive 25 cents for every bottle you recycle. The machine also has a lower compartment for those who need to return entire cases. The machine counts the number of bottles in the case and gives you average 3 Euros for an entire case. Once you’re done putting in your bottles/cases, you press a green button and receive a receipt with the amount of money that you’ve earned for recycling. This receipt can be used toward your groceries and is deducted from your total at the end. Therefore, people are encouraged to save bottles, both plastic and glass, in order to receive rewards. This also explains why homeless people will sometimes raid trash bins, in hopes of finding bottles.

Overall, the French recycling system is definitely not as advanced as the German system. However, The French system does recycle a large amount of products. For glass, they simple choose to put all different colors of glass in the same bin. They also recycle plastic as well, though there is no Pfand system for bottles. Therefore, you will sometimes find plastic bottles in the trash bins unfortunately. Most plastic is acceptable for recycling, except for plastic wrappings of sorts, like the kind you find on your school supplies. While hard efforts have been made here in France towards a more “eco friendly” recycling, there is still quite some work to do, when we compare it to Germany. In short, countries should strive to be like Germany, in order to preserve their country and to keep their world cleaner and happier as a result.

In relation to Purdue, recycling has been on the increase ever since last year; we see far more recycle bins outside of CL50 and other campus buildings; they are also on every floor of every residence hall. For off campus housing, most apartment complexes are provided with recycling bins to put out by their front door or have bins for common use. Overall, the movement is growing and it won’t be long till we we’re producing little to no trash. The movement can only get bigger and bigger from here.


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