I never thought that I would be preparing to write an entire post about trash, but here I am. And when I say “trash,” I mean the refuse, stinky, garbage kind not the fun, guilty pleasure television programming or smutty novel kind.
Germany takes recycling and refuse removal very seriously; it took me a solid three months to remember all the sorting rules and absorb this new attitude. Recycling programs aren’t nearly as extensive or comprehensive back in the States. Now that we are getting ready to leave Germany, I have seriously wondered what I will do with all of my extra plastics and food waste! Of all the things that I thought I would bring back with me from our great Army Adventure in Europe, a zeal for recycling was NOT one of them!
Recycling is required by law in Germany, and yes, there are trash inspectors. A person could be fined if more than 10% of her trash is found to be recyclable! Every type of plastic, paper, foil, metal, and food is recyclable. Some towns do bulk pickups of these items but in most areas you have to sort your different types of plastics, paper, and metal at the sort facilities. There are many ways to tell you are adapting to your new home here in Germany and for us, our ability to effortlessly sort our trash was one indicator that we’d made it!
When I discovered how much I would miss the recycling here, I realized that in our military travels we don’t just bring back new end tables, wall decorations, mugs, or other souvenirs from each duty station. We are changed in a very personal way by each assignment. Perhaps we adopt a new family tradition (Glühwein at Christmas?), we develop a love for new foods (Lebkuchen, YUM!), we pick up a new hobby (Volksmarch and skiing?), or we adopt new ideas and change for the better because of our experience in a new place. (I was never very dedicated or committed to recycling!). These are stories, memories and traditions that we cherish as we move from place to place. Years from now, when we are no longer an Active Duty family, these are things we will laugh about and trace back with stories that begin with “Remember when we were in…”
So, yes, here I sit, thinking fondly about my adventures with trash and recycling in Germany and laughing about how difficult it seemed at first. I really hope that I am able to maintain my German-like zeal for recycling and reducing my footprint when we return to the States. One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but for me, trash will be a treasure I bring home from our adventure in Germany.
What assignments have you picked up “treasures” from? Are they hobbies? New favorite foods? Family traditions? Or maybe you’re like me and picked up a good habit along the way?
Posted by Jennifer Herbek, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association