By Brittany Shutts
It’s hard to beat Germany’s recycling system. Multicolored trash bins line the exceptionally clean streets of German cities where the citizens separate colored glass, paper products, packaging, and food and plant waste. There are even some bins for clothes, shoes, and scrap metal. Black bins are only for waste that doesn’t fit into any of the other categories. Seventy percent of the waste in Germany is recycled every year, whereas the U.S. only manages to recycle 28%.
One of the biggest differences between the systems in Germany and the U.S. is that it starts with the manufacturers. It is their responsibility to minimize the amount of waste that is created, recycle any unavoidable waste or convert it into energy, and dispose of waste that cannot be recycled without causing environmental harm. In contrast to the “polluter pays” principle, the U.S. uses the “consumer pays” principle, which requires taxpayer funding for waste management. Since businesses in Germany bear the financial burden, controlling waste and recycling becomes a greater priority.