Q: I just moved in to my house in Germany, and put the garbage in the outside bin. The next day, I got a note telling me I hadn’t properly sorted my trash. What’s up with that?

A: Welcome to Germany — reputed to be the top recycler in the world. There are bins for plastics, bins for paper, bins for green waste, and bins for “biological-waste” such as eggshells and coffee grounds.

Bin colors for certain waste sometimes vary from city to city. The key is knowing what goes where — and if you put something in the wrong bin and get caught, you’ll probably get a nasty note or, worse, a fine from your area’s waste management company. Sometimes, they just don’t pick up your trash.

While some outsiders deride the meticulous recycling rules and regulations as just another example of Germans’ compulsion to tell folks what to do — and their willingness to do it — many environmentalists laud the country’s success.

Germany recycles upwards of 75 percent of its waste. Much of what it can’t recycle is incinerated and generates energy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans recycle just over 30 percent of their waste.

For more information about Germany’s complex recycling rules, visit the Kaiserslautern military community’s Web site at directorates/Newcomerbrief.pdf or the How To Germany site at recycling.html.

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