In Germany there are two deposit systems in place: one for reusable bottles (‘Mehrweg’). On such bottles you find the word ‘Mehrweg’ or its symbol (figure 1, symbol on the right side).
And there is a system for one-way-bottles that are collected for recycling. They always carry the Pfand symbol (figure 1, symbol on the left side). Although the one-way-plastic bottles are collected for recycling (in Germany you pay a deposit of EUR 0.25 for them), they are usually downcyled, which means that the collected material is not used to make new plastic bottles.
‘Pfand gehört daneben’ (Bottles belong next to (not into) trash containers): Since many people throw away their empty bottles instead of returning them to a shop, a campaign was initiated to encourage people to leave their bottles next to trash cans.
This is not only more sustainable (the bottles can then be recycled more easily) but it can also be seen as an act of solidarity, since people who need the deposit money to master everyday life can pick up the bottles without having to search the trash cans. So always remember: bottles do not belong into trash cans!
To support the ‘Pfand gehört daneben’ (bottles belong next to (not into) trash containers) initiative, students of Universität Hamburg launched a project to collect empty bottles: They put up old beer crates next to trash containers on campus for people to easily discard and pick up used bottles. There are already ten of these collecting points installed. Look out for these points on campus and leave your ‘Pfand’ bottles there.
Bottled water uses fossil fuels, contributes to global warming and causes pollution.
Refilling your bottle instead of drinking bottled water saves 150-300 g CO2-equivalents per litre (depending on where in Germany the source is). If all ECER participants refill their bottles and drink the recommended 2 litres per day, this saves 942 – 1884 kg of CO2-equivalents daily.
Even though plastic bottles can be recycled, the recycled material is seldom used to make new plastic bottles, as virgin material is cheap and easier to handle. Only 7.8 % of the recycled material has a quality similar to virgin material. This makes up for only 2.8% of the plastic used for producing new goods in Germany (s. Plastikatlas 2019, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/BUND). If you decide to buy a bottled drink after all, reusable bottles are the greener option.