Germans are known for efficiency, fine automobiles and beer. But what you might not know is they have a strong kinship with recycling.
If you've ever spent time in Germany, you'll find very little litter on the streets. You'll also find yourself spending enormous amounts of time sorting out your rubbish.
In Germany, recycling is not just for the environmentally-conscious. It's the law.
When I lived in Germany, a detailed document of how to deal with rubbish was handed to me. Unfortunately, since it hadn't been translated to English, I had a lot of questions. Where do I throw away my old toothbrush? What about that used rusty paper clip? And all those cassette tapes?
Since the questions were still lingering in my head, I thought it might be a good idea to take questions to my German friends in the English class I was teaching. Surely they would have the answers.
I gave them the document, asked them to translate it and then gave them a quiz. I know, it was cruel. They told me where to put the old toothbrush, the rusty paper clip and those cassette tapes. We had a lot of good laughs. It was all fun and games until we came to the tea bag.
A heated debate arose, almost as if someone had spoken ill of socialism. Apparently, there are 4 parts of a tea bag (5 if you want to really get picky): the bag (tea inside), the string, the paper, the little staple.
Do I put it all in the "restabfalltonne" (a bin for 'everything else') or do I carefully disassemble the tea bag and put each part in it's appropriate bin? A few opted for the "restabfalltonne". They were snubbed for their lack of devotion and considered lazy.
After a few months of avid recycling, I dreamt of days gone by when my paper, plastic, metal and glass mixed together in a smelly bag. That was life in the USA. This was life in Germany. Many can experience it. Few will truly appreciate it.