Mayor tours German waste and recycling centerWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
DELMENHORST, GERMANY — After two full days of business meeting at the Hannover Messe, a large industrial fair, Mayor Bell started the weekend April 13 with a visit to the local Delmenhorst farmers market, a short walk from the hotel. Afterward the mayor toured the city’s waste and recycling facility. The company, ADG, is city-owned and profitable with profits are reinvested into the operation.
Recycling has been mandatory in Germany since the mid-1980s and mandatory in the European Union since the mid-1990s, said ADG CEO Ulrich Salmen.
Germany was ahead of the European Union in terms of recycling and Delmenhorst has one of the best recycling programs in Germany, Salmen said.
City residents separate waste into multiple curbside bins, including residual waste, biowaste (compost), plastic/metal recycling and paper recycling.
Packaging companies are required to cover the costs of recycling of its recyclable packaging, which has a “green point” symbol on it to indicate it’s recyclable and goes in a separate bin.
Many residents have compost piles and don’t have much biowaste, Salmen said.
There’s no official AGD bin for glass, but most households also set out a bin of glass, which a private company picks up from the curb and delivers to the AGD complex for sorting and pickup by companies that buy it. Delmenhorst is the only city in Germany that offers curb pick-up service for glass, Salmen said.
There are also three depot locations where residents can drop off recycling. Delmenhorst has a population of about 77,500. Cost for the waste and recycling program is part of property tax.
AGD Operations Manager Sebastian Koch said many cities have used Delmenhorst as an example.
“We started very early with separation but it’s the standard now, more or less,” Koch said.
When residents have a large item, like a couch or a TV to recycle, they call AGD and arrange a scheduled pick-up at no extra cost, planned along a drivers’ regular route. The average is about 10 large item pick-ups per day, Koch said.
The company also offers a service to seniors who can’t make it to the curb where they can pay extra to have the driver come to the house and pick up the bins. The pilot program currently serves about 35 households, but AGD is hoping to expand it.
Heinz Grothenn and his wife, Anke von Wittke-Grothenn, who helped establish the Sister Cities International relationship between Toledo and Delmenhorst, have homes in both cities.
“I was happy when they started recyling in Toledo,” Anke said. “We’d been doing it for years.”
Heinz said he’s so used to sorting garbage and recyclables in Germany that he often has more recyclables than garbage, which can become a bit of a problem in Toledo, where garbage is picked up every week, but recycling is picked up every two weeks.
“We’d much rather have it the other day around,” Heinz said.
The Toledo group had many questions about whether items end up in the wrong bins and what happens. Salmen and Koch said that does happen, but most Germans are used to the system.
“Most of the people are very acclimated to this, so it’s not the biggest problem we have,” Koch said.
Bell said the tour was arranged because he expressed interest in learning about Delmenhorst’s operation and if he could learn anything to bring back to Toledo.
“We’re in the process of getting into multiple recycling areas, so we’re hoping to learn from this,” Bell said.
Toledo’s trash pick-up was done by a city department until a few years ago when it moved to a third-party contracted company.
“It confirmed what we went to a few years ago was the right move,” Bell said at the conclusion of the tour.