Ideas for a world without waste

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In Germany, more and more people seem to be becoming aware of the ecological consequences of their own consumption patterns. One indication: the growing popularity of initiatives to delay as much as possible the transformation of certain merchandise into waste. From cafes that serve as workshops for the repair of electromechanical products to stores that sell clothing and other second-hand items. These options are added, of course, to the chain of institutionalized recycling processes. Read also: Why Germans can not get rid of plastic End of the disposable culture? Some take advantage of these services because they have little money or because, having it, they refuse to spend it unnecessarily. Others do it because they have discovered for themselves the advantages of the economy of sharing or because they know what lies behind the low-cost garments: the exploitation of cheap labor under subhuman working conditions, the waste of raw materials, mountains of garbage and the immense amounts of carbon dioxide generated during the production and transportation of items. But even in those cases, the used bicycle, the shared car and the dress acquired in the second-hand market end up in the municipal trash cans or in the urban cleaning ovens. This cycle of buying, consuming and disposing is described as “from cradle to grave” because, implicitly, it only takes advantage of its components only once In Germany and other countries, a group of people promotes the cycle “from cradle to cradle” (from cradle to cradle), the idea of ​​manufacturing completely reusable products. “From the cradle to the cradle”, two steps beyond traditional recycling. Imitating nature Inspiration is provided by nature itself; She knows no waste, only food. German chemist Michael Braungart, owner of an environmental consultancy and co-founder of the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) association, argues that the production chain – from industry to the final consumer – must be reformed to return all what is used to a biological and technical recycling system. And, in their eyes, that is only possible when the merchandise is conceived from the beginning considering the duration of its usefulness. According to Braungart, waste does not exist: only biological and technical raw materials exist. Products such as detergents, tires or shoes can be converted into compost and returned to the biological cycle. Electronic products such as a television, refrigerator or clothes washer can be recycled too, if they are disassembled to reduce those machines to their smaller components; The synthetic material and the resulting metals can be used as raw material to manufacture other devices. A product can be created to be recycled both biologically and technically. This way of imagining production can also lower its cost: the consumer would pay for his use of a product and certain services -10,000 laundry sessions or 10,000 hours of electricity, for example-, but not for the product in question. Yes, that, after the expiration of its useful life, it would return to the hands of the manufacturer to be recycled. The manufacturer would be interested in using high quality materials and would know that it would recover them. Michael Braungart, co-founder of the Cradle to Cradle association. Mentality change Today, industries calculate their processes until the sale of their goods and contemplate the possible claim of guarantees for manufacturing failures. And consumers disregard their environmental responsibilities as soon as they leave their waste in the garbage dump. The concept promoted by Braungart would require a change of mentality. In the United States there are hundreds of products certified as “cradle to cradle”, in Germany it is mainly the companies in the textile sector that invest in this type of manufacturing. The question that industries must ask is: what will happen to my product when it reaches its point of obsolescence? And there begin the problems that need solution. For example, a garment certified as “cradle to cradle” must be manufactured in such a way that its components (fabric and buttons or zippers) can be completely separated from one another, the mixed materials can not be processed to be reduced again to materials The synthetic materials are a challenge for the Braungart system. Paper and glass bottles offer less inconvenience. Braungart knows that his proposals will find great resistance; but he is not alone. His daughter, Nora Sophie Griefahn, supports him in the executive management of Cradle to Cradle and his wife, Monika Griefahn, in the presidency of the association. Monika Griefahn also has not insignificant contacts; after all, she was director of the German chapter of the environmental organization Greenpeace and environment minister in Lower Saxony on behalf of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) during the Government of Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005). Karin Jäger (ERC / MS) Deutsche Welle is the international radio station in Germany and produces independent journalism in 30 languages. follow us on Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Guide to separate waste in Germany “How green is that bottle?” In Germany, depending on their colors, glass waste goes to one of three containers: white, brown or green. Those of bluish or yellowish color can be deposited in the green one. Neither the remains of broken glasses or windows nor the lids of the containers should be thrown into the bottle and bottle receiver because they are made of a material that obstructs the recycling process. Guide to separate waste in Germany Public containers If you do not have glass containers in your residential complex, you can use the ones on the streets; but not in the days (Sundays and holidays) or in the hours (between one and three in the afternoon of the weekdays) when the noise bothers the neighbors. Guide to separate waste in Germany Automated return Returnable glass or plastic bottles should not be deposited in containers. The consumer must take them to the shops to receive back some of the money invested in them when they were full. Most of the supermarkets have machines that “chew” the bottles to facilitate their recycling and print a voucher that informs the consumer how much money will be received in the box Guide to separate waste in Germany The informal economy around waste In urban areas, where poverty rates are increasing, the number of people who collect returnable bottles in the streets to collect the corresponding deposit when taking them to supermarkets also increases. In some places there are devices specially designed to leave the bottles in view and to avoid that the collectors have to dig in the garbage dumps. Guide to separate waste in Germany The blue container is for paper and cardboard The blue container is for the paper and the cardboard, but many ignore that the boxes of the pizzas and the fries must be discarded separately. Food scraps often obstruct the recycling process. Photo paper creates the same problem. The practice of recycling is an old German tradition: it dates from 1774. Its invention is attributed to the lawyer Justus Claproth. Guide to separate waste in Germany Brown or green for biodegradable waste Those who are accustomed to the strict rules of the use of the waste as fertilizer, would be surprised to know that it is not necessary to separate between the brown container or the green one when discarding remains of food in public places of the big cities. The remains go in a single container called “Biomüll”, or biodegradable waste, which is then processed in a fermentation plant. Guide to separate waste in Germany The yellow container is for all the packaging In the yellow container can be placed packages made from many materials: aluminum, plastic, polystyrene … Although the cartons must be empty to prevent their contents from spilling, this container tolerates the remains of food that others do not accept. The most “noble” waste is recycled and the rest is burned to generate energy. Guide to separate waste in Germany Yellow bags instead of containers … In some places, instead of containers, yellow bags (“gelber Sack”) are used to discard packages of dissimilar materials. These bags must be placed in specific places on predetermined days to guarantee their collection. Guide to separate waste in Germany Dark containers for everything else The non-recyclable inorganic waste is deposited in the black and gray containers; from diapers to the remains of cigarettes. And even in this category there are exceptions. Hazardous waste – paint residues, pesticides, corrosive products, fluorescent tubes or batteries, for example – must be placed separately or taken to specialized recycling centers. Guide to separate waste in Germany Hazardous waste Many supermarkets receive used batteries for disposal. Each city has its own systems and protocols to collect, collect and dispose of hazardous waste. The objective is to prevent them from coming into contact with sources of heat that cause them to burn and emit poisonous gases. Guide to separate waste in Germany Big words Some wastes are very large and do not fit in trash bins. For bulky waste – furniture, appliances, rubble, etc. – there are special collection points and times. Guide to separate waste in Germany Clothing containers In most German cities there are containers for second-hand clothes and used shoes. Charities collect those garments for resale. Guide to separate waste in Germany The danger of an overflowing container When a container is so full of garbage that it can not be closed, many collectors refuse to empty it. Hence, adding more waste to a container that is already full does not help. It is possible to request larger containers, but that service has its price. Guide to separate waste in Germany More chaotic than you think … Although they have earned a reputation for taking recycling seriously, not all Germans do. Now that you know the rules, you may outpace the locals when it comes to waste management … Author: Elizabeth Grenier

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