Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Informal Recycling Industry of Cologne

One strange feature I noticed when I was in Cologne was a significant number of reasonably well dressed people 'bin hoking' as we used to call it when we were kids. I was wondering what they were after until I perched on a wall by the river to give the boy his afternoon drink. Beside me were two empty beer bottles. After a bit a middle aged lady walked up and asked if they were mine. When I said no, she added them to her collection in two large carrier bags.

Germany introduced a compulsory deposit scheme in 2003 and as a result, single use bottles and cans are worth 25c. I assume the people I saw were making their living by collecting the deposits - there seemed to be loads of them doing it.

If we have any German readers, I'd be very interested in your views on the pros and cons of this.

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At 5:18 PM, Blogger Lorry said...

I'm not German, but we also have compulsory deposits here in Denmark. I think that most people do actually take their own bottles back, as any store which sells them has to take them back and you're going to go back to the store anyway. Larger chain stores have automated machines to accept bottles and print out a receipt you can take to the cashier for cash back. It's convenient and easy, so you're less likely to throw them away.

I'm sure there are probably people who dig through the trash, but I haven't seen them. I saw it quite frequently while living in the US, where there are far fewer places that will pay you, so it's more hassle than most are willing to go through.

At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Tracy said...

I'm from South Africa, and we have had a deposit system for glass bottles for as long as I can remember. It was a great way to make a little bit of extra pocket money as children, and offered some people a way to make a living. In fact there is a man with a wheelbarrow who makes his way around my parents' village in the Western Cape collecting glass and storing it until once a month or so a lorry comes and collects it all and pays him for it. He's self employed.


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