Students gain better understanding of 'reduce, reuse, recycle' during landfill visit
Gordon Adam of the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Environmental Office talks to Hainerberg Elementary School students about recycling during a visit to ESWE recycling center.

WIESBADEN, Germany - Recycling in Germany is an operation worthy of a field trip -- and that's just what Hainerberg Elementary School third- through fifth-graders did.

Members of the Student Council and Green Boot Club, which is responsible for collecting and recycling all paper and plastic from the school, visited the ESWE landfill and recycling center May 7 to get a tour of the facilities and see the fruits of their labor.

Employees from ESWE and the U.S. Army Garrison Directorate of Public Works showed students the recycling center, where everything from old toilets to paint to cell phones are collected. Gordon Adam, DPW specialist, explained the importance of sorting recyclables.

"If you have one person who's too lazy to throw something in the right container, the whole truck can be rejected, costing €100 to €150 per truck of paper," he said.

"That's why I tell them every week, 'You are so important for our school to save money,'" added Lynn Wheeler-Sahm, Hainerberg Elementary School kindergarten teacher in charge of the Green Boot Club.

The students then saw the landfill that was used from 1964 to 1982, before recycling was implemented. Gas collected from the rotting trash powers generators that produce heat and electricity for the complex. The center burns recycled wood to heat the ESWE buildings, and eventually housing in Newman Village. Solar panels also provide power.

"They look like TVs, or a giant chocolate bar," observed one student.

Rain water that runs off the surface of the landfill is collected and treated to be "clean-ish," according to Gordon, and dumped into the Rhein River. The rest is routed into ponds at the base of the trash mountain that are pure enough for fish to live in. The surrounding nature preserve is home to the rare red and black kites, numerous other rare birds, foxes and even house cats.

The students were especially impressed with the herd of sheep, or "biological lawnmowers," as Gordon described them, which roam about the top of the landfill and keep the grass trimmed.?

Yadrianna Cruz, 10, said she was proud to wear the club's T-shirt. She joined because she "wanted to help save the Earth."

"A dirty Earth can hurt us, plants and animals," she said.

Every Thursday, she and 26 other students in the club take 45 minutes to go around to all the classrooms in the school to collect paper and plastic and bring them to the receptacles outside. They also help teachers show students which items go in each bin.

"They are ambassadors for recycling," said Wheeler-Sahm, who has lived in Germany for 24 years. "It's interesting for them to see the end results of their efforts at school and where it goes next. [Recycling] is so doable, it's a shame to see people not doing it."

ESWE offered more recycling tips, such as simply leaving yogurt cups "spoon clean" rather than washing them out so as not to waste water. Used paper towels, often a source of confusion, should be thrown away with organic waste. And when in doubt, just throw it in the trash. Just one misplaced recyclable can render a?whole truckload un-recyclable.

For more information on recycling in Germany, visit or contact DPW at civ (0611) 705-9999.?

Page last updated Wed May 21st, 2014 at 11:02