If you spend any time on a German railway station you will probably see somebody going through the Verpackung rubbish bins, pulling out plastic or glass soft drink, mineral water and beer bottles or cans to pop in a large plastic bag. Yes, the Germans even sort their garbage on the railways. The collectors are people on small incomes - the long term unemployed who get about €400 plus rent a month or pensioners who may receive a little more, but not much.
German soft drink, water and beer bottles and some cans have Pfand (deposits) on them. These can be up to 25 or 30 Cents, but glass beer bottles are only worth 8 Cents. Shops must take these bottles back and return the deposit to you. You don't have to return the bottle to same shop. You can pop into the next supermarket and pop your bottle end first into the hole of the machine standing near the door, push the green button when you've finished loading the machine and you will be issued with a chit that you can use to pay off your bill at the till. Fruit juice containers don't have a deposit, neither do similar bottles from Austria, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. It does mean there are fewer bottles littering the forests and cycle tracks. It is a pity there is not a similar system on paper handkerchiefs. The system, although complicated does seem to work and there are fewer plastic bottles littering the countryside than in France or the UK.
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