My Garbage Can Is an Unwanted Science Experiment

by Brea

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It’s been hot outside. I am one of the few fortunate people in the entire country that happens to have a/c at my office. I’m currently sitting with my winter jacket on, however, because the a/c is broken and won’t stop running. Alas, I would take this any day of my life over extremely hot weather. I would be perpetually sad if I had to live anywhere near the equator.

What I’ve realized this summer is why Germans are unusually clean; it’s because it’s imperative. German homes don’t have ventilation inside. There aren’t vents in the bathrooms so there isn’t really anything built-in to promote air flow. The most natural answer is to crack the windows to get airflow and the fresh air is generally preferred over ventilated air anyway. Nearly every home here uses rolladins that act as shutters and help keep the bugs out but most homes don’t have screens to completely stop them from getting in. As such the occasional fly finds it’s way into our home.

This all is leading up to my predicament. We had family visit about a month ago which meant we had more trash than usual. Before we used to throw out the excess trash on base like the terrible Americans we are, but now that it’s banned we recycle everything locally. We didn’t want the extra trash in our house because, as stated before, there’s no ventilation and our house will reek instantly if we don’t constantly take out the trash. In the hot summer months this is more of an issue.

So we put our excess normal trash bag into the brown, bio bin and planned to take it out and put it with the other normal trash on trash day, which is every two weeks. On trash day we brought our bin down and then set the two overflow bags next to the other trash. This turned out to be a big mistake. In Germany, it must be in a black trash bin or they won’t take it. Never mind that the trash company is coming to pick up your trash and it’s sitting with the trash. It’s not in the bin so they won’t take it.

We weren’t sure what to do so our neighbors had to explain to us that if you have extra trash that doesn’t fit in your bin, then you must go to the city hall in your town and pay around 5 Euro for a special colored trash bag. Then they know to take it. So we lugged our trash, full or maggots and flies, back into our trash bins. With two bags already on day one, we knew that we were going to have the same problem since we were clearly going to have trash overflow again.

Well that’s annoying but not the worst thing in the world. So here’s my problem. The brown trash which still has an old ‘overflow’ bag in it is so incredibly disgusting at this point that there is absolutely no way I am going to touch that thing. I tried to open it yesterday to see the situation on the maggots and roughly 50 flies flew out at once. I basically screamed in surprise and ran about ten yards away then looked around to see if anyone saw me. So my next plan of attack is to wait until its cooler out, preferably pouring rain, put a mask on, bring 5 cans of bug spray and spray it until nothing is moving anymore. Another thing that is frustrating is that I feel we are the dirty American neighbors. Flies love our trash bins and it’s very evident that we are having trouble with this! We didn’t have this issue last year because we could just take trash on base if we had overflow.

I have learned from living here that Americans somehow create more trash than Germans. Many of our neighbors have multiple children and never need to buy an overflow bag, yet somehow we overflow our trash bin constantly! I have started trying harder lately to try to limit my trash i.e. re-using items, making sure I return all my plastic bottles for a refund, doing my best to accurately separate my trash to avoid penalty fees and to not let one trash get too full. But man, it’s tough work!

Don’t get me wrong, I love that everyone recycles and I’ll happily contribute to a more green world, but it takes some getting used to. And then there are the questionable items: some things look like paper but are really plastic and vice versa, glass candles that still have the wick and wax in them (glass must be separated by color and thrown away at a common area in each town), egg shells (I still don’t know if this is bio or regular trash…do these decompose?), and much more. Currently our bio trash is in a small ziploc bag in the fridge, but it’s growing and we will eventually need to take it out. Let’s hope I can get it figured out by next week so we can be done with this trash problem.

I’m going to ask my neighbors to help me get to the bottom of all of this trash business and will provide a blog post once I get it all figured out. My neighbors even have said that sorting trash is a complicated system for them too, and they’ve been doing it since they were wee ones!

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