This won’t sound that weird to my parents or grandparents (sorry for making you sound old), but when you buy bottled drinks in Germany, you pay a little extra and get that money back when you return the bottle. From what I understand, this was fairly common in America for glass bottles, which could be sterilized and reused, but here it is used to encourage recycling of plastic bottles (in addition to glass beer bottles).
Bottles with this logo are called “Pfandflasche” – “Pfand” means deposit and “flasche” means bottle. The Germans are ever practical when it comes to naming things. When you buy these bottles, you pay an extra 25¢ above the listed price. If you don’t like that or hate recycling, you can also search for bottles labeled “ohne Pfand” (without deposit).
Most grocery stores have machines for returning bottles at the front of the store, so it’s fairly easy to find somewhere to return the bottles. The Verlobter and I just keep our bottles in an Ikea bag and then use that bag for our groceries once we’ve returned the bottles, because Germany is all about reusable bags as well and stores charge you when you need one.
We drink a lot of bubbly water, but more about that some other time.
The machines generally have a top section for returning individual bottles, and a bottom sections for full cases of beer, because Germany.
The machine looks for the Pfand logo and tallies up how many bottles you’ve returned. When you’re finished you have two options for your money:
The “Pfand” option gives you a receipt which you give to the cashier when you buy your groceries and deducts the amount you returned from your purchase. The “Spende” option donates the money. As you can see, there is a little shield that makes it impossible to accidentally push the Spende button. According to the Verlobter, that wasn’t always there. Presumably, people who weren’t paying attention frequently ended up donating their money and got quite angry as a result.
I like the system well enough, if anything it reminds us to bring a bag big with us when we go shopping, because we need to return our bottles. I wish the Pfand was included in the price like sales tax, though because I always forget about it. Price tags do have the Pfand listed, but in such a small font that I often overlook I when I do my mental math. Still better, though, than America’s system of listing prices without sales tax included which makes mental math impossible unless you’re a percentage savant.