Aluminum Can Conspiracy???

Actually, Mort Furd, the scheme wasn’t dreamed up by the Greens. It goes back to the early 1990s (I think it was 1992) when the then conservative government (CDU party, now ranting against the deposit as hell) enacted a law that specified that the market share of refillable containers must be at least 72 per cent, and that the government has the right to launch the deposit as a countermeasure if the actual share drops below that line (as it has done for years).

When Social Democrats and Greens won the 1998 election, they did not repeal this this law and started considering to actually realize the deposit system. It didn’t come overnight; this is very much GD territory, but if you ask me I’d say it’s not the Greens (nor anyone in the government) to blame, it’s the bottlers and retailers. They’ve been knowing that they were supposed to obey the 72 % rule, which they didn’t - actually the non-recycling share has been going up, not down, after the 1992 act. They could have taken preparations for the deposit, which they didn’t. Instead, when the pro-deposit faction, lead by Green environment minister Trittin, announced the deposit would come at the beginning of 2003, they didn’t take any preparations either - they sued, and they even went up to the constitutional court. Each and every one of those lawsuits got rejected. But did they take preparations? No, they convinced Trittin to give them a waiver - until the end of September, they’re allowed to continue that crappy system you criticize where you have to return the can to the place where it was bought. They’re now obliged to install a unified system where every place that sells can has to take them back until Ocotber 1, but still no real preparations going on. Many stores have, as you say, stopped selling cans altogether. Others are miraculously starting to think about cooperating with other chains to install a working system. But all in all it’s not the government to blame for the poor situation. Some stores totally refuse to collect deposit. I just can’t understand why the authorites choose not to fine them as provided by law.

And the deposit is not “admitting that recycling isn’t working.” All in all I’d say it works fine; of course it depends on people’s willingness to participate, but the majority of Germans does not throw everything into one can but follows at least some basic rules. The can deposit is meant to punish those who don’t participate but simply drop their cans on the streets.

Btw, Trittin’s office, the ministry of the environment, has compiled an English FAQ on the German deposit.

Where can I return cans and one-way bottles?
In principle you can return one-way drinks packaging to any retailer that stocks such
drinks in the same one-way packaging. If a retailer exclusively stocks specific
packaging that differs in type, shape or size to other packaging, he only has to take
back this packaging (so-called isolated solution, cf. questions and answers E 4).
Shops with a small sales area (below 200m²) only have to take back one-way
packaging from the brands they stock.

Transitional period up to 1 October 2003: Until industry sets up a nationwide
return system, consumers can only return their cans and other one-way packaging
subject to a deposit to the shop where they were purchased (usually together with
the receipt or a token).
Trade and industry are responsible for setting up a return system. On 13 June the
Chairman of the Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE), Dr
Traumann, announced that a nationwide return system for one-way packaging
subject to a deposit is going to be set up, managed by Lekkerland-Tobaccoland,
which other enterprises can and will be incorporated into.
This means that from 1 October 2003 it will be possible to return one-way drinks
packaging to any of the shops linked to this system and to receive reimbursement of
the deposit. Around 100,000 shops will be involved in the first stage of setting up the
system. In addition to this some chains have announced they will be setting up their
own nationwide return systems by means of so-called isolated solutions (see
questions and answers E 4).

Now if we can just figure out a solution to the muffin stump problem…

MMMM, stumpless muffins!