As with a lot of things here, I picked up on how to recycle by lurking and watching others while pretending to be texting on my phone. Here is what I have gathered so far from putting my observations into practice:
Jars, cans and bottles bought from a particular store can be recycled at that store to recieve the “Pfand” back. At our particular grocery store, the machines are located in a little room marked “Leergut”. For many weeks, the not-so-smart side of me read and processed that sign as a Spanish/German adage such as “reading is good!” and assumed that the little room was full of old books. A more adept person would have known that the sign means “Empty credit”. In the small, sticky room are a couple of machines. Put your bottles, cans and jars in there one by one and press the green button to get your receipt. The cashier inside will either give you money back or apply the credit to your grocery purchase.
None of this is so different from recycling in the U.S., assuming that you live in a state that does give you deposits back. The amount of money recieved back here is much higher. I think it’s 5 cents per can/bottle in Connecticut, with some other states at 10 cents per item. The prices here range from 5 cents to 40 cents, depending on the item. I think that aluminum cans and Coke liter bottles have the most Pfand.
Naturally, not everything that is marked as being recyclable can be brought back for a Pfand – only those items where a deposit was originally paid. Strangely-shaped items and non-store brand glass jars often do not have a Pfand paid on them. I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t know or remember which is which, since the Leergut room often has discarded empties there that did not make it through the machine. There are separate recycling canisters around campus for those bottles (brown glass, white glass and green glass).
The same system applies to Gluhwein mugs at the Christmas markets and even mugs at the Cafeteria in the Uni. Of course, that means any of them are up for grabs if you like the cup more than your money.