Around ten years ago in Germany....after years of talking about a problem....the German government had enough political support to create the idea of a mandatory bottle deposit program. The grocery chains and drink business operations all hated the general idea....on day one. They were key to the success or failure of the program.
A deposit is required of any soda (can or bottle), beer, or water container. Wine, milk and fruit juices....all got a 'pass' on the deal.
The idea was that you'd get the public to pay a deposit, and they'd make sure that the bottle ended up back at some grocery, drink shop or gas station. In theory, it probably works about 90-percent of the time. The last ten-percent? At public events, if you look around these days....a number of low-income folks are wandering around and attempting to pick up deposit bottles and return them for the deposit change.
A couple of years ago....for some major sports episode.....a TV journalist interviewed some zero-income guy who had a huge bag of returnable bottles. For the entire day of effort.....he figured that he'd clear near eighty-Euro. It was non-taxable.....but he admitted that he might only get a day like this ten times a year.
The Leergutautomat machine? Well....when you walk into a grocery store or drink shop....you will notice a machine near the front door....about the size of three soda machines. It's got two points to insert either a case of beer or larger sized bottles.....and a place to insert single bottles. A computer adds up what you gave to the machine and gives you a receipt and you go to the cashier to get your money.
Cost upon the grocery? Yes. Most Germans don't grasp that part of the game. The leergutautomat machine has a cost and a maintenance angle. None of these are cheap. But they pass the cost onto you.....the customer.
Did the deposit business clean up the bottles on the street? Yes.....but mostly because the low-income people now roam city streets, train stations, soccer stadiums, and parking lots....for empty bottles. I would take a guess in a town like Wiesbaden.....the low-income folks are raking in around a minimum of 5,000 Euro a week over the entire city. Go figure 8-cents to 25-cents for a bottle and it adds up.
If you left Germany prior to 2006....you've probably never seen a Leergutautomat machine. If you do happen to stop one day for another visit and wonder what this whole deposit thing is about.....it all leads to individual grocery and their machine where you will get your refund. Even at the Frankfurt Airport now.....they have a number of these machines there to refund your cash there.