Story and Photo by Garrett Allen
Please recycle this tea bag.
(Babelfish probably completely botched that translation)
Upon arriving in Munich for the first time this summer I immediately noticed two things:
- It is an old city
- It is a very modern and efficient city
The problem with being around for a long time is that you start to accumulate a lot of junk. This area of Vermont and New Hampshire was established around 200 years ago and has little visible or logistical municipal waste problems. Munich was founded in 1158 and has their refuse problems under control. Athens has been around for 3000 years and is now out of landfill space.
“Mountains of refuse filled the streets in early January, spilling out of garbage cans and marring the face of one of the world’s most fabled cities.” – via IHT
When your civilization has been around for a long time you understand resource management better.
The immediacy of recycling as a necessity never hits home when you live in Vermont. Everything is green, clean, and out of sight. Even billboards are outlawed. Its no excuse, but just something I thought about today as I tossed a post-seep tea bag into the garbage. I find my self not recycling as much as I should because it is inconvenient and there is no direct daily visible proof of why I should be recycling more than the usual cans and bottles.
Unlike in American where you usually see only one refuse container (trash), Germany’s Green Dot system is a way of life for them. Its not even an issue, its just the proper way. I met a group of young Germans one night and upon finishing a bottle of altbeer they would deftly toss them into the GrÃ¼nglas (green glass) bin. They were much more interested in what I had to say about Eminem and 50 Cent than my views on recycling. Who wants to talk about recycling over beers at 1am anyway? But thats beside the point…
How to recycle a tea bag
- Remove the two tiny staples attaching the string to the tag and the tea bag.
- Place the staples in the metal recycling
- Open the tea bag and dump the tea leaves into compost
- Place the empty bag, string, and tag into paper/cardboard recycling
But does it matter?
Let’s look at a few statistics:
Waste Generation – via NationMaster
- #4 United States: 460 kgs per person per year
- #11 Germany: 340 kgs per person per year
- n/a Greece
Municipal Waste Per Capita – via NationMaster
- #1 United States: 720
- #12 Germany: 546
- #24 Greece: 370
Ecological Footprint – via NationMaster
- #2 United States: 12.22
- #14 Germany: 6.31
- #24 Greece: 5.58
UN Human Development Index (HDI), 2006 – via UNDP
- #8 United States
- #21 Germany
- #23 Greece
So in conclusion, Germany recycles more and seems to have a lesser impact on the environment, so does Greece, but it doesn’t really matter when you have been around for 3000 years because you will still have garbage flowing in the streets. Well we may not have four different refuse/recycling bins but at least we have a higher HDI. In your face Deutschland.