Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sorting trash and recycling in Germany (Mülltrennung)

Let’s talk trash.

Never in my life had I been shown or taught to sort trash. I learned about recycling in school but in Singapore it had never been strongly emphasised on. Singaporeans don’t really give a shit what ends up where.

I didn’t know how important that is until I came to Germany and found out that almost everyone here sorts out their trash. And religiously at that.

Plastic goes into the Gelbe(r) Sack (Yellow sack), Paper goes into the Papiertonne (Paper container), Glass goes into the Glastonne (Glasscontainer) and there it’s further sorted out into white, green, and brown glass, and everything else goes into Restmüll (general rubbish).

Whoa. I was so – as I would say in Malay – “jakon nak mampos”.
It’s hard to explain what it means in english. In a way I was just totally dumbfounded. I was like, shit, if my neighbours see me take out a lot of trash they’d know that I don’t sort them.

Here is a picture of my Gelbersack:

I store them in the attic and when it’s time I’ll take them out to the road side and they will be collected. Usually once a month.

Here is where I put my paper trash and glasses. In a reused box:

When it’s full I’ll empty it out at the paper and glass containers.

The paper and glas containers are thankfully nearby, just across the street and this is how they look like:

I can only dump stuff here between 08:00 and 18:00. I think. No idea why, but okay.

Even stuff like metals, chemicals, electronics, wood, plants, hardware, furniture, etc. are not to be disposed off anyhow. It’s insane. I have like… empty battery cells from my remote control, alarm clocks, and wireless mouse, and just before I put them into the ‘general trash’ Micha pointed out that they have to go somewhere else. The funny question is… where are there surpposed to go?
Surprise of the century.
That’s what we still have to find out.
If you know, please don’t hesitate to tell me. Haha.

It takes a little effort to sort these things out, because then you’d have to think before throwing something away. Something I never had to worry about in Singapore. Whether it’s an empty milk carton or an empty glass bottle of chili sauce, they all end up in the same trash.
But after some weeks it actually isn’t that bad. It makes it better too when everyone else is doing it - saving the world.


  1. "Jakon nak mampos" means "totally a fish out of water". At least that's the nicer way of saying it.

    I think electronics and batteries can be disposed at the junkyard. Do they have those places over there?

  2. Disposing at junkyard is illegal
    They have a way to disassemble it to use the parts and stuff

  3. There's some kind of yard you can take electronic stuff to but they're not always open since collection days are also not fixed.
    That's when it gets a little annoying.