Trash, treasure, or economic windfall?

Germany is very strict with its garbage.

Most of us receive a small bin, about one foot by one foot, in which to dispose of garbage every two weeks. Everything else gets recycled, unless you’re willing to pay big time $$$. Or rather, €€€.

While it sounds utopian, it’s not without problems. To discourage people from disposing of trash with the recyclables, the bags are transparent and are inspected before pickup. If you accidentally place something in the wrong bag, expect to see it waiting there on the street when you come home.

Not to mention that it has been known to get hot here in the summer … well, ok, not every summer, but definitely some summers. If your trash is waiting outside for two weeks in the heat, it makes for an unhappy community. Many people resort to burning their trash to avoid the smell and/or extra expense. And we all know that’s not pleasing to the environment.

But I digress.

The subject of this post is a very special trash day, one that happens just twice a year, for sperrmüll, the big items that won’t fit in your standard foot-by-foot bin. Think old furniture, electronics, rugs … it’s pretty much fair game.

But what really makes it an event are the hoards of  people that hover around the sperrmüll like moths to a flame. Some even get a regional schedule and then hit a different town each day.

In my little corner of Germany, it just happens to be one of those days. And ever since early this morning, they’ve been circling.

They come in vans…
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They come in trucks…

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They even come in Smart cars…

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Who are they? Well, it depends.

There are certainly some gypsies hailing from Eastern European countries, as well as non-gypsies from Eastern European countries. Many of them seem to have a preference for metal objects, which can be sold as scrap.

Plenty of people are looking for furniture, which they can re-sell at vintage stores or flea markets. Or re-sell to those who own stores or have rented spots at flea markets.

Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll see great, vintage furniture that has been broken apart. Some people have an aversion to anyone else owning their prior possessions, or perhaps they just hope to avoid attracting the interest of the travelling furniture-scavengers.

And then there are the simply curious.

What they all have in common is their unabashed nature. They don’t sneak. They don’t come around at night. They’ll walk right up to your house in broad daylight and rummage through your things, unconcerned by the crashing and banging that alerts the inhabitants to their presence. Last year, as my husband and I carried out our items, people came straight up to us to inspect what we were holding in our hands.

And then, quite disdainfully, wrinkled their nose, shrugged their shoulders, and left.

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  1. A great way to recycle, but your observations are hilarious! xoxo

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