Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pfand - Playing the High Stakes Game of Bottle Deposits in Germany

I have become obsessed with Pfand during our first 6 months in Germany.   Pfand is the German word for bottle and can deposits.  These amounts can range from €.08 (a beer bottle) up to €.25 (for a plastic water bottle.)  With the strength of the Euro (currently €1 equals $1.40), finding bottles has become a high stakes game for me (at least in my mind.)    I don’t consider this looking for bottles.  Rather, I consider this a hunt for $.35 pieces on the ground (or in the trash can. More on this later). 

In just the last week, I found nearly €4 of pfand in various places around town.  The way I see it, this is a €208 yearly bonus for us.  I won’t be able to quit my job, but it helps.  Here are my 3 keys to success for finding pfand in Germany.  

Be ready at all times. 

You never know when you will find a random bottle, so you always need to be on the lookout.  There have been plenty of times when I find pfand while walking Oscar and Dylan around town.  It may look a little silly to pull 3 empty beer bottles out of the bottom of Dylan’s stroller after a long Sunday evening walk, but I am okay with the potential embarrassment.

Also, I have learned that long bike rides are a good source of pfand income.  I now bring an empty backpack with me to fill on my long Friday bike rides.   Preparation is the key. 

Be willing to get a little dirty

These bottles may or may not be a little dirty and they may or may not be lying in a trash can.  Sometimes, to overcome the fear of filth, I have to imagine these as chocolate candy bars (which can be purchased at the grocery store for €.29).  I have limits as to how far I will go to grab an empty bottle, but if it’s the only thing in the trash can, I will go for it.   There have been times when I just have to walk away from a potentially toxic bottle in the middle of some trash.  Even I have limits. 

Do Your Research

In Germany, some bottles are pfand-free, so you need to know which bottles will bring you the best return.  I will admit, I have spent a couple of extra minutes in the beverage aisle at the grocery taking mental inventory on which bottles do and do not require a bottle deposit.  Hopefully, this research can minimize the amount of times I need to reach into precarious areas and not reap a reward for it.

Now it’s your turn.  I’ve just humiliated myself on telling you about how I go for pfand (disclaimer:  Dana does not share the same feelings as me.)    The question is, ‘would you (or do you) look for and pick up extra bottles if they were €.25 ($.34) per bottle?  


"We're taking it up a notch."

I’ve just taken this thing to another level.  I made my brother in law get out of the car at a stop light to get a .25 bottle on the side of the road. He questioned me for a second, but saw the serious look on my face before he could rationalize with me. 

Just like Izzy Mandelbaum says on Seinfeld, “We’re taking it up a notch.”

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