2.28.2008

Waste not, want not

Although it may look like a perfectly fine, almost spring-like morning, today, February 28, 2008, cannot be counted among the blessed days for this Bad Dürkheim resident. In fact, when I looked at my city-services calendar, I actually cursed this Thursday.

It’s not a ‘restmüll’ day.

For those of you who haven’t been introduced to the German sanitation system, restmüll is rubbish--literally. And although what constitutes restmüll differs from town to town, here in Bad Dürkheim it can be defined as any garbage that isn’t plastic, glass, paper or biological waste. You’d be surprised by all the things in your trash, which don’t fall under these categories. You’d be even more shocked at how much restmüll accumulates in the two-week period between pick-ups.

Even though we are just a couple, Max and I have been particularly bad litterbugs. Hosting three dinner parties hasn’t helped our cause. We still have a full week before the next garbage day, and piles of trash bags lay waste in a corner of our kitchen. In an otherwise stunning home, it’s an eyesore—and a smelly one at that.



Back in the States, this wouldn’t be an issue. Besides the fact that recycling isn’t as stringent, if not nonexistent, every day can be a restmüll day, especially if you have access to a dumpster. But here in Germany, trash collecting, almost an art form unto itself, is reserved for only the most special of days.

And today ain’t it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for recycling. It’s just that I’m not particularly good at it. Sometimes when I go to throw something away, I feel like Henry Kissinger brokering a treaty. I spend an inordinate amount of time negotiating which container is best suits my waste.

“This candy wrapper is shiny like metal, but it feels more like plastic. Does it go in the yellow bag or the white bag?”

The mental workout my garbage gives me is exhausting, really. And when I can’t decide where a piece of trash should go, it goes in restmüll. And therein, my friends, lies the problem. Put a dunce cap on me, and stick me in the trash corner. I haven’t been properly schooled in waste sortation.

18 comments:

Princess Extraordinaire said...

I think you could have a new vocation as a trash sorter - you know more aout it then any sanitation worker I know....hang in there!

Danie said...

way too complicated.

karey m. said...

eek. we have absolutely NO recycling here...i'm always so scared to return to the states and be the only one who doesn't know how it all works.

not anymore! we'll have to take an online course or something...

kenju said...

There's no time like the present to learn it, Diane!

Diane Mandy said...

Princess X - The little I know isn't going very far. I think I might need to go on strike.

danie- WWAAYY to complicated. germans are famous for this aspect of daily life.

karey m. - FInd that course, lady. I'm in.

Kenju- I agree. Must.learn.to.sort.my.trash.now.

Anonymous said...

I had a friend who was a trailing spouse in Japan for a year. Sometimes she'd fill up a tiny bag of undetermineds and just go dump it downtown in a trash bin. She also agonized and was perpetually confused by the posters and terrified she'd be fined or jailed for making a mistake (your trash bags were labelled with your name or address or soemthing). I wish I remembered what her blog address was that year, you would love that entry. Makes me feel like the US is way behind the curve on this one. Where I live you can recycle if you take it upon yourself to sort and drive to a recycling center. Where my folks live, they have separate bins for plastic and alumninum, and that's as far as it goes. You'll be so progressive if/when you come back to the US. If it helps, right before my friends came back to the US, her restmull pile was just slightly larger than the piles of her neighbors. She finally felt like she had the system down. But oh, how she cackled the first time she threw an empty milk jug in with the regular trash back home. But now she's one of the few I know who takes it upon herself to recycle. Japan has guilted her into saving the world habits back in the US.

Mimi said...

It's really not that difficult. There's a system and it works. You just have to know the system. It is based on the recycling number codes on the package. It miay be hard to find, but that code is there. Certain numbers go in certain bags. You are likely putting waaaayyy too much in the restmüll

Go see your landlord, or an English speaking neighbor. Or ask your German teacher. They will be happy to explain it to you. Also ask if there is a town recycling center/dump nearby - you can take the garbage that piles up between pickups there.

Leesa said...

Boy, we are behind the times regarding waste sorting.

Shelly said...

Ahh...post-party-sorting...I feel your pain. The bummer is you have no place to hide it, poor girl. I have places to stash the bags, not always a good thing.

egan said...

I'm huge on recycling and sadly America is way behind on this. So much stuff that could be recycled gets put into the trash. I live in a city that's pretty good at recycling, but even Seattle has much room for improvement.

They only collect trash every other week? That's kind of sucky. Simple thing Diane: stop having so much fun. No more entertaining.

Diane Mandy said...

Anonymous - I hope when I get back to the US (whenever that will be) I will also bring my new "green" ways!

Mimi- I actually think my landlord is worse than I am! He basically told me to ignore it. :-) Actually, I've made a list of questions for my mentor. I haven't seen in her a couple months, but she comes tomorrow! Thanks for commenting!

Leesa - so so far behind. It's amazing the difference.

Shelly - no place to hide it IS the worst part. I suppose I could leave it outside, but we have a shared courtyard and I'm not sure if it would be in bad taste.

Diane Mandy said...

Egan - I have to agree. I'm having way to much fun. No more parties!

AmyD said...

Maybe they have a trash class you could sign up for? Ha!

Good luck with that...sounds like a load of crap to me! ;o)

Cheryl said...

And to think, we have problems with basic recycling here in Chicago...

Rositta said...

We have the same system here in Toronto. I separate into three containers, one for recycling, one for all compostable waste and one for the left over garbage. Here though we are only allowed two green garbage bags every two weeks and that will be reduced to ONE bag every two weeks come fall...ciao

patches said...

It's kind of weird. My husband and I typically only produce 20-30 gallons of garbage a week. Our recycling bin verges on overflowing but we have plenty of space in our garbage bin.

Don't think I'm bragging...I'm pretty clueless as to how we pull this off. There are plenty of wine bottles in the recycling bin, so obviously we aren't up for sainthood. I compost a lot of kitchen trash. I think much has to do with cooking fresh food versus convenience, prepackaged foods.

F.Y.I. my husband had the same difficulties when he was stationed in Germany.

M said...

we're the same over here actually. They took away all the big bins and gave us a really tiny one for non recyclable garbage and another small one for recyclable stuff, and there's also the paper collection and the garden waste stuff too. The garbos refuse to take the normal bin if it's overflowing

Andrea said...

This is a great post. Especially now since I actually have to recycle. Gone are the apartment complex dumpster days (anything and everything can go in the black right?) and method of my past. Now we have once a month yellow pick ups (only in the provided bags please) and twice monthly blue and black and then this one labeled Bio? Seriously, this is just too much for me. I am trying but I have a feeling we will be needing a bigger 'black' can in no time.