Geeking Out Over a German Waste Treatment Plant

I’m sure the other Fellows thought I was nuts given how excited I was to visit a state-of-the-art garbage treatment plant on the outskirts of the city. Our host, Meggie, was terrific to set up the tour.

In researching Lubeck, Germany, I discovered that they have a mechanical biological treatment plant that consists of mechanical sorting and anaerobic digestion — a fancy way of saying they divert tons of trash from their landfill by recycling it or reusing it in various ways.

At first I thought “recycling” meant that they pulled out all the recyclable paper, plastic, glass, etc. from the trash as it came to the facility. Nope. Those recyclables never make it to this plant — they’re separated at the household level and taken to other recycling facilities. (Quick sidenote: Our single stream recycling is really cutting edge. They don’t have that here — everyone has to sort. More of us should take advantage of our incredibly easy and lazy-proof system.)

Also, the city also picks up composting waste separately (that’s basically anything that was once living — meat, produce, garden plants, etc.). The composting is done at a separate part of this facility.

So there, they haul in the trash — all the stuff that’s not recyclable or compost — and basically chop it up into pieces to prepare it for the next steps.

I’ll explain the whole proecess in my next blog entry, plus — wait for it — I’ve got some video to share. We’ve got a full day ahead over here, so I’ve got to run for now, but I’ll post part zwei later today or in the morning.

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