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Get it sorted! Misconceptions and common errors in waste sorting

Sorting household waste ought to be a piece of cake: plastic belongs in the yellow bin, organic waste goes in the brown bin for green waste, and glass is taken to bottle banks. Nevertheless, there are a few mistakes people often make when it comes to recycling. It’s important to avoid them – after all, correctly separating rubbish is vital for successful recycling, and also protects the environment and natural resources. Using six practical tips, we show below what to look out for when separating your waste and explain the most common mistakes.

Sort properly before recycling

Waste contains valuable raw materials that can be extracted and returned to the recycling loop. However, this entails properly separating rubbish beforehand. The following tips show how to get it right.

1. What goes in the paper recycling bin?

Not everything that seems like paper belongs in the paper recycling bin. Tetra Paks, for example, should be placed in the yellow bin (or yellow bag). Although they consist of cardboard on the outside, they shouldn’t be thrown away with other wastepaper because of their internal coating. The same applies to till receipts, which are sometimes still printed on thermal paper coated with the harmful chemical bisphenol A. Accordingly, till receipts as well as paper towels, paper handkerchiefs, household wipes and baking parchment should all be disposed of with non-recyclables. By the way, MediaMarkt and Saturn stopped using receipts containing bisphenol A back in 2011.

2. What should I do with old CDs and DVDs?

Waste sorting is important for CDs, DVDs and the like, too. They consist of a form of plastic known as polycarbonate – a high-quality recyclable raw material which can be reprocessed into new data storage media. Instead of being put with the non-recyclables or in the yellow bin, they must be collected separately for recycling. CDs and DVDs can be handed in free of charge at public recycling centres.

3. Disposing of glass correctly

When you take your glass bottles to the bottle bank, be sure to sort them by colour. Bottle banks are divided into white, brown and green glass. If in doubt about the colour, drop bottles into the bottle bank reserved for green glass. However, never put drinking glasses, window glass, mirrors, light bulbs or pottery fragments there. They have a different composition and must therefore be taken to the recycling centre. By the way, there’s an urban myth that whenever bottle banks are emptied, all the different colours are mixed up together again. That’s definitely not true! Inside the collection vehicles are separate multi-chamber systems which allow the colours to be kept separately.

4. No need to rinse out yoghurt pots

Plastic yoghurt pots etc. don’t normally need to be rinsed before they’re thrown away. In fact, doing so would be an unnecessary waste of energy and water. Prior to recycling and reprocessing, plastic waste undergoes a hot wash anyway, meaning small amounts of residue aren’t a problem. Mind you, anything more than this should be scraped out with a spoon. And the aluminium lid should first be separated from the pot – if not, sorting plants aren’t able to sort and recycle the plastic and aluminium used in yoghurt pots.

5. Organic waste: No compostable plastic bags, please!

Food leftovers (both raw and cooked) can be thrown away in the brown green-waste bin. However, make sure you don’t dispose of cooked leftovers such as meat, fish or soup in the green-waste bin as this attracts flies and other vermin. Organic waste should best be wrapped in newspaper to absorb moisture and prevent maggots from forming. Since properly separated organic waste makes up the basis for high-quality (potting) compost, organic waste should not be disposed of in plastic bags, even compostable ones. The reason is that bioplastic takes much longer to become compost than the organic waste itself.

6. Even plastic waste without the "Green Dot" can be put in the yellow bin

Not all packaging is marked with the "Green Dot" logo. Nonetheless, all product packaging made out of plastic can and should be thrown away in the yellow bin even if it doesn’t bear the Green Dot. Composite materials like plastic combined with aluminium (such as coffee capsules) and blister packs for pharmaceuticals are also allowed in the yellow bin.

At MediaMarktSaturn, waste sorting and recycling are high on the sustainability agenda. From the separation of waste at stores to taking back disused electrical appliances as well as accepting and disposing of used batteries, light bulbs, and empty toner and printer cartridges, we ensure that recyclables are properly sorted and returned to the material cycle.