Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fee-Based Recycling of Trash Is a Mixed Bag for Germans

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fee-Based Recycling of Trash Is a Mixed Bag for Germans

Article excerpt

Now, really, who could resist an invitation like this? "Come visit your trash!"

All over Germany, municipal-waste sorting centers and recycling plants of all kinds will be opening their doors to the public this weekend.

"We would like to demonstrate to the public that recycling works, that it is credible," says Vera Becher-Andre, a spokeswoman for Duales System Deutschland, a not-for-profit corporation that handles the "Green Dot" system for recycling consumer packaging. More than 300 sites will take part in the event, which is sponsored by Duales System. Most will offer an "open house," including tours of production processes. The idea is to show the public what really happens to the specially marked packaging people so faithfully sort out from their other trash and garbage. Under German law, consumer-goods manufacturers are responsible for the waste their packaging creates: Polluters must pay, in other words. The overwhelming majority of them discharge this responsibility by participating in the Green Dot regime, which started operation in 1991 and is administered by Duales System. Manufacturers in the system pay license fees entitling them to use a distinctive double-arrow logo on their packaging. Consumers then put packaging with this logo into separate, specially marked bins emptied by private trash haulers. Manufacturers who choose not to participate in the Green Dot program still have legal responsibility for their packaging - for taking back empty bottles or cartons from consumers. Legislation that would require nonparticipating manufacturers to document their waste management is awaiting the approval of the upper house of the parliament. The markets for recycled glass and some other materials are firmly established. Demonstrating that recycling plastics is not only technically feasible but cost-effective is coming more slowly. Manufacturers can reduce their license fees by reducing the amount of packaging their products require: by putting laundry detergent in plastic sacks instead of bulky cardboard cartons, or by packaging spices in little plastic "refill" packs rather than glass jars. …

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