Recycling: Germany 1-0 Australia

Alright, moving on from my favourite topic Composting to my second favourite topic: Rex the dog. ChickensMy husband Pete. RECYCLING!

Meekatharra, if you don’t know, is a small town in the middle of the Outback in Western Australia. It has about 800 inhabitants and is 5 hours drive from the nearest city Geraldton, or 8 hours drive from the metropolis Perth. It’s pretty far away from things.

Meekatharra also has the luxury of being surrounded by thousands of square kilometers of apparent ‘nothingness’. The red dirt just stretches to the horizon whichever way you look. It is mesmerisingly beautiful country.

The vast Outback surrounding Meekatharra

The vast Outback surrounding Meekatharra

The luxury of all this space also means though that we’ve got enough room for landfill. We just dig a big hole somewhere on the outskirts of town, dump everything in it, close it up, dig another one, no probs. Heaps of room.

I have to admit: it is very handy to have an open landfill site nearby. Big cleanout? Chuck it in the back of the ute and take it to the tip. Demolish a shed? Put the rubble on the truck and take it to the tip. Need some building materials? Have a poke around the tip (also lovingly referred to as ‘Bunnings’) and take some goodies home to supply your next DIY project.

The tip is not all evil.

But unfortunately all that freely available space makes it very easy, way too easy, to just chuck everything in the hole and don’t worry about it.

Coming from Germany, a country about the size of the south west corner of WA, but with 82 Million people in it (about three and a half times Australia’s population), I know what it’s like to live in a densely inhabited country. Lots of people living on small space produce lots of waste (only because we make and do and produce and create and change lots. Can’t help it. German efficiency). In Germany we simply do not have the luxury of digging ‘just another hole’. Instead we have to come up with processes (very efficient ones, of course) that take the rubbish away from homes and convert it into something useful. In Kiel, my home city, we have a “Muellverbrennungsanlage” (oh great, I just gave ammunition to Pete who will now throw his hands up in the air saying “how can you Germans turn a three letter word into a 28 letter word?! And how could you pronounce that!?”). Said Muellverbrennungsanlage (Waste Incineration Plant) burns all the rubbish that can’t be recycled and turns it into energy. See? Efficient! Rubbish gone, energy created! And that is after we’ve taken out all the recyclables.

In Kiel we have three or four different bins: plastics & packaging, cardboard & paper, green & organic waste, rest. That’s where all our rubbish goes.

Okay, so what about cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles… Do you just chuck them out? Surely not? – No of course not. We have a Container Deposit Scheme! Like the lucky people in South Australia. That means when you buy a drink at the shop you pay a bit extra, like a 50c bond. Then, when you go to the shops next you bring with you all your empty bottles and cans with you, stick them in a machine (super efficient of course), it scans your items, calculates the value and gives you a little receipt which you can then take to the checkout to get a credit on your shopping. It’s good fun! Aussie husband Pete loves it! He’s like a little kid saying “Svenja, can I please put the bottles in the machine and press the button?? Please please pleeeeaaaaase!” … Well, maybe I over exaggerated a little bit, he doesn’t actually plead and beg but he does enjoy using the beverage container recycling machine.

Container Deposit Machine

Container Deposit Machine by Mattes

Okay, so what about glass bottles? Oh no, we don’t throw them in the bin! Any that you can’t return at the shops we collect and deposit them in glass recycling containers. Sorted by colours of course. It’s great fun chucking them in the metal skip bins and hearing them smash.

Glass Recycling Containers in Germany

Glass Recycling Containers in Germany from

So: Plastic bottles, glass bottles, other glass bottles and jars, aluminium cans, plastic packaging, paper, cardboard, green waste – all being properly recycled. Of course there are proper drop off spots for e-waste, furniture etc. Of course. And whatever can’t be recycled gets incinerated and gets converted to electricity. Sounds pretty advanced, doesn’t it?

That was normal for me. I thought the whole world did it that way. After all, it wasn’t that hard!

And then I came to Meekatharra. …

… and started throwing everything (everything) in the one bin to go to the tip …

By now you can probably see why I am so passionate about this. It’s all been done before! This isn’t something impossible, it’s something that’s already fully functional and totally normal on the other side of the world. Surely a few extra kilometers between household and recycling plant can’t be an obstacle that can’t ever be overcome?

That’s what people told me though. “Nah, recycling? Tried it. Too far away. Not enough people. Not worth it.”

Well, if there’s one thing that Germans love doing (next to recycling and composting) then it is to prove people wrong. It’s National Sport # 1 in Germany. You thought it was soccer? Ha! Ever argued with a German only to find that the German was right? Oh ho ho, the German is going to celebrate that immensely (but of course not show it too much).

Therefore the “recycling can’t be done in a place like Meekatharra” was just the motivation I needed to kickstart and stick with a project called Meeka Goes Green. But more to that in another post.

[to be continued]

(this is supposed to be the whole drama story telling effect. Not sure if it’s working. In the mean time check out Meeka Goes Green’s Facebook page!) 🙂

2 Responses to “Recycling: Germany 1-0 Australia

  • Muellverbrennungsanlage … when I try to say it …it sounds like the noise cans make in the crusher at the MGG recycling yard 🙂 nice article.. I too am not sure about the dramatic … to be continued effect 😉 but non the less will keep reading as you write rather well, nice story telling. 🙂 !

    • Outback Greenie
      4 years ago

      Most German words sound like the cans in the crusher at the MGG recycling yard… 🙂 Good luck to Pete trying to learn the language! 🙂

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