I’ve been translating a lot of documents dealing with recycling in Germany lately, and as I was working today, I had a sudden, strange, recycling-related flashback.
The Germans are big on recycling, and they’re big on using glass bottles with a deposit on them. Because they’re also big on efficiency (well, sometimes), they have these machines in supermarkets which handle the whole bottle-returning/deposit-calculating process (maybe other places have these machines, too, but the only place I’ve ever seen them is Germany).
I remember using two such machines in Freiburg. One had a little conveyor belt onto which you put your bottles, one after the other. One by one, the bottles would trundle into the heart of the machine, where they were scanned to determine a) what kind of bottles they were, b) whether there was any deposit on them and c) if so, how much that deposit was. After all your bottles had gone in, the machine spat out a little receipt which you then took to the cashier to get your deposit.
The other variation on this machine involved a mysterious “chamber” system rather than the conveyor belt. Here, you would open a little door, put your bottle in the chamber, close the little door and wait for your bottle to be whisked away to the interior of the machine and scanned. It followed the same principle as the other machine, but it involved a lot of door-opening-and-closing. Again, at the end, you would get a receipt to give to the cashier when you checked out.
There is absolutely no reason for me to have remembered this machine, and I realize that there’s really no reason for me to have written about it now, either. But the flashback I had while translating was so sudden and so strong that I couldn’t just let it go. One minute I was staring at a screen full of words, and the next minute I was staring at a row of bottles wobbling on a conveyor belt into a “bottle machine” in a German supermarket.
Since I brought this all up, I guess I’ve given myself the opportunity to mention two other random - but related - tidbits of information.
1) It is my fervent wish that the rest of the world would catch up with Germany on the recycling front. Sure, the German system has had its problems and its scandals, but at least the Germans are making an effort. Anyone who hasn’t lived with the German system of strict garbage separation probably thinks it sounds like a major hassle. But believe me, when you live with it, it becomes second nature - and you start to find it really difficult to just chuck cans and bottles and plastic packaging and food all together in the same bag to be whisked away and dumped in some massive landfill somewhere. Jeremy and I do the best we can with recycling here in England, but they sure don’t make it easy.
2) When I was in college in the States, my friends and I would often go to a certain supermarket that was next door to a liquor store. This liquor store had a separate section attached to it where you could return bottles and beer crates to get your deposit back. They called this bit the “Redemption Center”, and they labeled it as such with a big, lit-up sign outside. And to this day, the thought of these two enormous, illuminated, juxtaposed signs - “LIQUOR STORE” and “REDEMPTION CENTER” - never fails to make me laugh.