Deposit to Stay Alive

Many see the United States as being wasteful, compared to the “green” Germany.  Germans take pride in recycling by separating their trash, bringing their own reusable shopping bags to grocery stores, and using color-coded trash cans to help the recycling system.  Although recycling is not required by law, deposits are.  Since 2002, buyers of soft drinks, milk, juice, or any other container are required by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany to pay “Pfand” (deposit) before buying.

Scenario: You go into a grocery store and pick up a case of water.  You go to the check out counter, and pay for the water, and additionally to that charge, you pay Pfand.

Some may think this is a hassle, but the buyer is able to return these bottles to any grocery store and get their money back.  This not only helps Germany stay “green” but it also helps the homeless survive.


Picture taken by: Dina Imsirevic

While being abroad in Germany this summer, I noticed how many homeless individuals go through trash bins outside of museums, airports, and other various public places.  They did this in order to collect glass or plastic bottles that others threw away.  And why not? By returning bottles that were found, the homeless can feed themselves.

Prices that one pays on deposit varies on the type of bottle or container.

Glass bottles for most beer and beer mixed drinks (usually up to 0.5 litre): € 0.08
Reusable glass and plastic bottles for most soft drinks (usually up to 2 litres): € 0.15
Reusable glass bottles of a special kind and design (usually flip-top bottles for beer): between € 0.15 and € 0.50

Returning a bottle for €0.50 (≈$0.70) can buy a homeless individual a small snack or drink.  And by collecting more bottles, more food and  can be bought.

Recycling helps save families money, keeps our environment green, saves energy, conserves natural recourses, and of course, feeds the homeless.

4 thoughts on “Deposit to Stay Alive

  1. when i was in germany a few years ago, we always wondered why the homeless people were going though the trash to find our bottles. when we asked one they said that they get money for the bottles. i wish they had some kind of program like that here in the states.

  2. I was in Germany several summers ago for a study abroad program, and had the same observation. I think it’s a great system; not only for the homeless to survive, but for just “regular” people to make some extra pocket change. I grew up in Connecticut where they also have a program like this, and we could return the bottles at the grocery store and then get the money taken off our grocery bill that was earned by returning bottles.

  3. As you probably saw there is a website called: Pfandgeben. It allows homeless people to find other people who want to get rid of their Pfandflaschen. They can just type in their city name and then see who has Pfandflaschen, pick them up, bring them to the market and get the deposit. Good deal!
    http://www.pfandgeben.de

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