Germany – My experience of avoiding plastic here

So I have nearly been in Germany for three weeks – I leave this Monday coming so figured now is as good a time as any to reflect on plastic-free living here versus at home in Ockbrook. Briefly I just want to start by commenting on the bin system here versus the U.K.

It feels to me that the German recycling system is miles ahead. They have bins for everything and schemes whereby you are incentivised to take back and recycle goods such as glass bottles for cash. Talking to the family I have got to know the most as it includes the two ministers who supervise me they rarely throw things out into the non recycling bins. In total as a family of 3-4 folks they can cope with a once a month collection. They are just reusing or recycling the rest. Furthermore it is just “natural” to compost things.

Now obviously there are lots of people in the U.K. doing this/ aiming for it (including the Maxwell household) but the difference seems to be that at least here in Herrnhut, Saxony this is just normal – this is taking no extra effort. It is clearly built into the lifestyle.  This is inspiring in so many ways as reducing our general levels of waste ( plastic or otherwise) is ideal and it is great to see a country striding ahead in this area as well as other areas.

Shopping here for the times I have needed to pick up lunch has made a few other things clear. They are so much better at not packaging fruit in plastic. I have really fallen in love (again) with Nectarines after finding them almost impossible to find plastic free in the U.K. Vegetables are not in plastic but these seems to be fairly available in the U.K. too so here it seems pretty even – neither Germany nor the U.K. seem to be ahead of one another as I have also seen both offer plastic wrapped vegetables.

I love Nectarines - there is an amazing Greengrocers that sell these in Herrnhut. So sweet and yummy!
I love Nectarines – there is an amazing Greengrocers that sell these in Herrnhut. So sweet and yummy!

Germany seems better at pasta. This Barilla brand seem readily available (with lots of different pasta shapes) and it has no plastic in it. When I get home I intend to research this brand further to see who actually produces it and see if something similar might be possible in the U.K. As much as I do actually enjoy making my own pasts for things like camping this would be a God-send.

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Germany has Milk as standard in glass in the shops (although it is sometimes UHT style I am given to understand). Similarly apple and orange juice in glass is standard and not hard to come by which has been really enjoyable and a nice change. This is not to say they don’t have plastic options – they do – it is just fresh juice and milk can be bought with little effort in glass down the shops unlike in my experience in the U.K.

One area Germany seems to do worse on is chocolate – not that the U.K. is great. So things like Fairtrade chocolate here in Herrnhut will seem to come in a cardboard but in fact they then have a sneaky plastic covering inside the cardboard where in the U.K. this would usually be foil or non at all.

Overall Germany seems to be limiting its use of plastics more than the U.K. or at least where I have lived and visited. Unlike in the U.K. I wouldn’t fear not having a packed lunch with me whilst travelling in Germany as most of the time I think I could get enough plastic-free bits together to make a packed lunch out – but that maybe the area of Germany I am in. I go onto the Netherlands on Monday and hope to be able to do a similar comparison. I have really enjoyed the fresh fruit here and am hoping that this plastic free easy option will continue in the Netherlands. We shall see.


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