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Feature: cleaner and greener

Once the undisputed powerhouse of Europe, Germany's increasingly gloomy mood is more sick man of Europe than global go-getter. With unexpectedly early elections around the corner, some might say that German
pessimism is a self-fulfilling and somewhat inaccurate view of their current situation.

Environmental and waste issues aside - where its
progressive approach singles it out for European praise - Germany is in the grip of an economic negativity that could make for an interesting general election. Briefly, the problem is this: in order to compete in the global market, Germany has outsourced manufacturing to cheaper countries, sacrificing jobs along the way.

Unemployment has risen and manufacturing wages have decreased. Since 1995, 1.3 million German industrial jobs have disappeared. Add to this Gerhard Schröder's unpopular economic reforms and you can begin to understand the mood of the country.

But that isn't the whole economic story. Germany's success in global terms is being overlooked. In 2003, it surpassed the US to become the world's number one exporter, and in 2004 exports accounted for a record-breaking e730 billion. This positive global position, along with the environmental advances being made, remains largely unheard by a population whose domestic outlook is one of perpetual gloom.

In terms of environmental and waste management
legislation the country has not been found wanting. In recent months the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety has unveiled a raft of legislation which will not only help Germany to meet EU directives but also set it on a path to environmental improvement.

The Ministry's Waste Storage Ordinance, which came into effect on June 1 2005, means that domestic waste can no longer be landfilled without pre-treatment. Compared by federal environment minister Jürgen Tritten to the introduction of catalytic converters in terms of environmental importance, this new legislation will stop waste being landfilled in ill-prepared sites that cause contamination and result in high methane emissions. Now, recoverable materials will be separated and energy recovered.

The Ordinance will only allow 30% of domestic waste to be landfilled, and even that will be pre-treated and disposed of in effectively lined sites.

In terms of recycling, the third amendment of the Packaging Ordinance came into effect at the end of May. This simplifies the consumer-paid deposit system that Germany uses to stimulate drinks can recycling.

This legislation is being introduced in two phases. The first will amend the existing deposit scheme to a standard 25 cents for each item of packaging. The second, which comes into force in May 2006, will extend the deposit scheme to all ecologically unfriendly one-way packaging. It will also mean that stores selling cans and glass or plastic bottles will have to take back corresponding packaging from other drinks manufacturers.

These measures, says Tritten, will make the deposit scheme more user friendly and ensure that all one-way packaging from 0.1 to 3-litre sizes will be recycled.

Products falling into this category include beer, mineral water, carbonated drinks, non-carbonated soft drinks and alcoholic mixed drinks.
The first year after the deposit scheme became compulsory, the share of reusable packaging rose by 10%.

Future legislation includes the Electrical and Electronic Equipment

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