Separate the Colors, Leave the Lids On

The local news visits the largest glass recycling facility in Europe, in Dormagen. The report clears up a few mysteries about the ubiquitous glass-recycling boxes you see in Germany.

First of all, separating glass by colors actually does matter. You typically hear Germans saying it doesn't, because the trucks which clear the containers seem to dump everything haphazardly into the trailer compartment. Wrong! What bystanders can't see is that the trucks have separate compartments for each color of glass.

Glass of the wrong color, as well as non-glass items such as ceramics or even gun parts (according to the plant manager) are removed from the stream by hand. The rest is automated.

Oh, and although every box has a warning sign tells you to remove the lid before you recycle the bottle, this turns out to be wrong. The machines can easily remove lids, which are recyclable themselves, and intact bottles with lids are "more hygienic" for the human sorters to handle.

This has been your public-service post for the month of October.

3 thoughts on “Separate the Colors, Leave the Lids On

  1. although every box has a warning sign tells you to remove the lid before you recycle the bottle
    Is that so? The containers in my city explicitly say you can leave the lids on. I do remove the plastic ones, though, because I assume they are removed by magnets.

    But don’t do that with (re-usable) beer bottles. When touring a brewery they showed us the sob who had to remove them by hand because the cleaning machine couldn’t do that on its own.


  2. About a year ago, I did some research for a company that was looking to get into a small aspect of the recycling business. I found it fascinating. Getting people to properly sort things is essential to making it cost effective. I knew that about the glass colors before doing the research, however. My old 4-H club was very into recycling back in the ’70s. That was before towns had recycling programs. We’d gather stuff from our neighbors and take it to someone who would weigh it and buy it, but everything had to be properly sorted. Besides being ecological, we also made some money for our club.

    A fascinating book is Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter.

    Oh, I just realized I’ve already used fascinating twice, but I can’t think of a better word for how things are used, reused, taken apart and made into new things. People have literally made fortunes out of finding someone who wants what others have thrown away.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s