Thursday, June 12, 2014

Garbage Fairies in Germany

Yes, it's true.  Germany has garbage fairies.  My neighbor told me about them, but I didn't believe her until I saw it happen.  It was garbage morning and there they were taking our garbage cans to the curb.  Amazing.  Magical even.  And if that wasn't enough, those magical, garbage fairies returned the garbage cans to their homes when they were done.

I could get used to this.  No worries of missing garbage day and being stuck with your garbage until the next time.  Brilliant!

However, let's talk about waste management here a bit.  It's complicated and not so magical all the time.  Garbage day is not the same day every week.  It's not every week for that matter.  It is every two weeks and on random days each month.

Also, garbage is not just garbage.  There is sorting to be done, which I am actually totally fine with.  Back home I already had a sorting system going with my garbage, paper and plastic/glass/aluminum.

Here is the breakdown:

yellow = packaging = plastic, just to confuse us, milk cartons (I think because they have the plastic spout?), aluminum

blue = paper and cardboard

Yellow and blue are picked up ONCE A MONTH!  This kills me.  The yellow bin is usually overflowing by the time it's picked up.  It's kind of eye opening how much packaging waste we have.

bio = food scraps = not cooked food = veggie peels, egg shells, etc. oh and garden trimmings

black = true garbage, including leftover cooked food because there are no garbage disposals here

Bio and garbage are picked up every two weeks on totally random days.

Oh, and there's spermull.  That's a very special garbage day that happens a few times a year.  This is the day when you can put out all your big stuff like furniture pieces you don't want anymore.  In the two days before this happens, white vans will drive up and down your street at least 25 times a day.  I'm really not exaggerating.  These are professional garbage pickers.  I've done some roadside rescues a few times myself, but these guys do it seriously and they scout the streets until spermull is over and they move on to the next village.  It is literally their job.

I know you're dying to find out how I sort my're on the edge of your seat, right?  I figure, just in case there's someone out there looking for info about life in Germany, maybe it will help them transition to this new world.  When I found out we were moving to Germany, I scoured the web for blogs on living here.

So here you go...

I used one of my ice buckets for my food waste.  At first it was under the counter, but I've found it much easier to have it out on the counter so when I'm chopping, I can easily throw it in the bin.  This usually gets emptied every day or every other, otherwise it can get stinky and fruit flies may start to invade.  Another trick a friend of mine does is she stores hers in the freezer, but I can use all the freezer space I can get.  Did I mention fridge/freezers are much smaller here? This bio bucket concept reminds me of Rachael Ray's garbage bowl.  Same concept really.

Under the sink.

Yellow & Blue (aka: packaging and paper)
Cute IKEA garbage cans.  They hold a lot and I don't have to change them so often.

Returnables & Glass
It's funny, back home returnables were pop/soda/beer cans and bottles, but here, it is water bottles.  I'm not even sure about soda cans to be honest.  Oh and I forgot to tell you, you'll have to take your glass to a separate drop off bin.  They don't pick up those.

I just used IKEA bins for these.

There are only garbage fairies, not bio or yellow and blue fairies.  Those you have to remember to take to the curb all on your own.  And if you miss bio day, that is not a good thing.  And if you miss yellow and blue day, that's not good either because most likely your cans will be overflowing since it's only once a month.

Well, I hope this helps someone out there!

Happy garbage sorting!


  1. Hey Kim. I love to talk about garbage! All that sorting sounds like living in San Francisco -but we luckily have regular pickup and bring it out ourselves. We've got recycling, compost and landfill. 3 bins to your 4. What I love is that our family of 4 only produces only one small bag of garbage (landfill) a week! Also our garbage company wants us to compost things like pizza boxes and milk containers -they just grind it up. Of course we have ginormous american sized containers for all this stuff, so I can sympathize with that tiny bin dilemma you got going and the random randomness on pickup, etc. I must say that archaic systems sounds so -erm - un-German!

  2. I’m an Army Brat and spent 4 years growing up in Germany. We lived on base so we didn’t have any weird garbage issues (except getting stuff to the dumpster outside) but I remember fondly all the stuff my mom would bring home when she’d go “Junking”. It was amazing, wrought iron candle sticks, huge awesome cutting boards, furniture galore. She still has a lot of it and when I moved out I took my toy chest, brumbershoot (sp? – umbrella) stand, and a small wrought iron table.

  3. I can totally relate to this post. I always joke and say that milk and garbage occupy way too much brain space in my life and Switzerland. We must take our garbage to a local spot where there are bins for sorting all of the various recyclables (must keep wipes in the car) as well as disposing of the "other" garbage. With our family of five; it means going there every day or else watching the garbage pile up in our tiny kitchen... which can make a momma grumpy. This also means that I have mistakenly driven past the drop off on an occasion or two resulting in a not so fragrant car. :) Our family always laughs and says that we will joke about this all one day. :) Happy weekend!

  4. You are thankful for this post. Not too much people talk about garbage. It is really useful. I will be happy if you visit my organizing blog

  5. Hi! I live in germany too, and I have loved their garbage management since the past 4 years... :D


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