German street paper raises money for vendors with bottle recycling scheme

German street paper TagesSatz has raised more than €10,000 in the last year through a scheme that encourages supermarket customers to donate the refunds they get when recycling bottles.

Bringing bottles back for recycling is a well-established routine in Germany and most supermarkets that sell drinks provide a place to return them. Customers put the bottles in a machine and then pick up a receipt which entitles them to money off their shopping or a cash refund.

But in supermarkets throughout Kassel and Göttingen in Lower Saxony, customers are taking the opportunity to donate to the local street paper instead of pocketing their refund.

TagesSatz's red boxes make it easy for people to donate Photo: Ute Kahle

Stefan Marx [one of the nominees for Best Vendor Contribution in this year’s INSP Awards] sells the street paper in Göttingen and values the money the scheme brings in.

“It helps to finance TagesSatz as a charity,” he said. “We are always short on money and work only with volunteers.”

Ute Kahle, TagesSatz’s head of distribution, said the money provides essential support for the paper’s team, and allows them to reward vendors for their hard work.

“It’s the money that helps us do some extra things,” she added. “For example, if we wanted to give some money to the vendors at Christmas we can use this money for it.”

The extra cash also funds art classes, vendor trips and summer barbeques.

Vendor Detlev ‘Rocky’ Bernhard recently went on a trip funded by the bottle deposit scheme.

“We now have more activities for vendors and we all went to a museum together in Wolfsburg [a city west of Berlin]. We went there by train and that was great,” he said.

Rocky has a message for his customers: “Please contribute: it keeps your local street paper alive.”

TagesSatz vendor Stefan Marx Photo: Ute Kahle

The bright red bottle shaped collection box, made by the street paper, sits next to bottle collection machines in eight supermarkets across Kassel and Göttingen.

This allows customers to drop their receipt in the donation box, rather than going to the till for their refund. The money collected from the scheme is split between TagesSatz and local food bank Tafel.

One supermarket manager in Göttingen said the scheme has been so popular that they had to request more pick-ups from the box, as it was overflowing with donations.

“A lot of people here just want to leave their bottles and not get the deposit [money] back,” she added. “We have a box right next to the machine that means people don’t need to go into the shop for eight cents, they can instead just drop it in there and know the money is going to a good cause.”

“It is so crowded in that box, sometimes I wish it was a bit bigger. We even had to call for it to be emptied more often.”

The manager said she thought locals appreciate the easy way to give to charity.

“In Germany it is not so popular to give to charity and putting this deposit slip in the box is anonymous,” she said.

“A lot of people realise that they forgot to cash it in and think ‘oh I will just give it to charity.’ This is just a bit of laziness and the Germans are lazy.”

See a full list of supermarkets that take part in the scheme here.