- Due to the high national recycling rate, Germany doesn't have enough garbage to feed its many garbage-burning power plants and composting facilities that it has built in the past decade. These plants make it possible for the country to turn trash into electricity, or "[spin] straw into gold," according to a facility brochure.
- In order to combat this issue, Germany is taking in piles of garbage via boat and truck from England, Ireland, Italy, and Switzerland. The waste is then burned and converted to electricity for German households on the grid.
- While this initiative is working in favor of both Germany and the countries exporting their trash, Germany is receiving some backlash due to the residents' obsession with reducing waste — not taking in other's mess.
The recycling rate in Germany is one of the highest in Europe, with roughly 65% of waste getting recovered and reused each year. Therefore it is no surprise that residents feel a sense of frustration as the country imports tons of waste from its neighbors.
"We are a German generation that grew up with recycling," Berlin resident Stefan Korn told The Wall Street Journal. In addition to ethical issues, residents are having trouble with the strong odor of the waste, which sometimes piles up in one spot for weeks before being moved.
Despite these issues, importing waste brings economical value to the country. Plants are able to charge higher prices for municipalities to dispose of their trash — $55 to $80 per ton, compared to $35 per ton just a few years ago. While these prices may make it uneconomical for countries to send their waste to Germany, the waste-to-energy plants remain one of the best options to dispose of waste while phasing out landfills.
In the United States, similar waste-to-energy plants are being constructed. By building waste-to-energy plants, focusing on alternative WTE methods, and testing various technologies such as gasification, the waste industry is on track to a making a greener footprint on the environment.