It’s nice to be back in the routine. I have been away for the past three weekends – twice with the family, once with Dad – so it was comforting to know that this weekend we were staying here. I started the day properly by going to the bakers and then stayed in the groove by going to the tip and then taking all the deposit bottles back. All the drinks we buy here (with the exception of fruit juice and wine) come in cans or bottles with a deposit. The stock of empties in the cellar grows fairly quickly and after a couple of weeks it is down to me to get rid of them. When this “deposit on everything” law came in about fifteen years ago (under the ruling red/green coalition at the time) I can remember the politicians reassuring us that every retail outlet would take all sorts of bottles back. Well, fifteen years later and they are still working on delivering that promise. Yes, dear reader, German politicians are just as good as the rest of the world’s at making promises they can’t keep.
A lot of people make things easy on themselves by buying all their drinks from the fairly common “Getränkemarkt” (drink markets) which are dotted around. In Schönaich we have one – it’s just like a little supermarket that only sells drinks. These are usually sold in plastic crates containing 12 or 20 glass bottles. We drink the tap water here (from Lake Constance and supposedly the best in Germany) but most families buy mineral water. This means that as well as the Saturday morning “tip ritual” lots of people also swing by the Getränkemarkt to stock up on crates of water. Of course, you can also get all this stuff in the supermarket. The standard German supermarket trolley has a fold-out shelf just below the handle which is designed to hold one of these standard-sized crates. The Getränkemärkte also often have a home-delivery service too for a few extra cents per bottle.
Even though it would make economic sense, we don’t use the Getränkemarkt. We don’t buy any mineral water and I don’t like having crates of beer in the house – because if we did, I would drink them. I prefer to buy some beer and maybe a bottle of wine on a Friday for a treat at the weekend. And still, even with our fairly modest consumption those bottles stack up. Especially now that it’s summer holidays the girls will buy cans something sweet and gassy or we’ll get some stuff in to drink on journeys in the car and before you know it, I am heading to the supermarket with two large bags full of empties determined to get my deposit back in full.
This isn’t as easy as it should be because most retail outlets now have a machine to take the empties back. These evil robots take great delight in spitting the odd bottle back at you with a “not accepted here” message. I’m not sure if it’s the OCD genes in me, but I am always offended and disappointed if I can’t get rid of all those bottles in one go. If you don’t there are only two alternatives. The first thing to do is drive around, spewing diesel fumes into the atmosphere, until you find a place which will accept your reject bottle. Alternatively you can go to the bottle bank and just chuck it in thereby foregoing the deposit. I admit to usually selecting the lazy option two. Once I did this using the bottle banks at the tip, but one of the staff there saw me throwing a deposit beer bottle into the glass container and gave me a nasty look. In the state of Baden-Württemberg, whose inhabitants have a reputation for being “careful” with money and whose President is from the Green Party, this is a cardinal sin. That look was only brief, but I know I am never going to get to that great bottle-bank in heaven now. So instead I now just drive to the other end of town where there is a secluded bottle-bank at the end of a car park where I can throw in my deposit-rejects with gay abandon. I know that sounds pathetic but… err, well, yes.
But today I didn’t need to visit my secret bottle-bank, I drove to the supermarket in Böblingen which has the greediest bottle-robot in the area. It seems to take almost everything without complaint. Once a crumpled plastic bottle which had made it’s way from Austria was refused but otherwise it swallows the lot! Today was no different – to my delight the bottle-return machine took every single bottle. I was nervous that the slightly rectangular “Vio” mineral water bottle with the sporty nozzle would set the alarm bells ringing but my apprehension proved to be unfounded.
I was able to return home victorious. Now I know how those Team GB athletes must feel. I left home at 10 with a car-boot full of paper, plastic, cardboard and bottles and returned half an hour later with a gloriously empty vehicle. It was satisfying. In fact this wasn’t just satisfying, it was hugely satisfying. Ha! And they say modern life has become shallow and meaningless.