Leave it to the Germans to come up with a brilliant system to make using actual glasses at a Bier Stube possible, the Pfand. This “ransom” or “deposit” charged by vendors means that they get their cups, glasses and plates back for washing… and you get to use grown up table-settings.
You see, I really don’t like drinking out of plastic cups. And it’s not just that I hate the feel in my mouth, or that it makes wine and beer taste different. It’s the sheer WASTE. Look around you after a festival or gathering. Trashcans overflowing with paper plates and plastic cups. Our landfills are choking with this garbage.
What is Pfand?
In Germany, at a festival, you go to the counter for your Beer and Schnitzel, and they charge you a few extra Euros on top of the cost of the food and drink. This is a PFAND. When you are done eating and drinking, you return the plate and beer glass (and silverware… imagine, real silverware, and not flimsy plastic to cut your meat!) and get your money back. The dishes are then washed for the next person. It’s very efficient.
I can see some of you looking for flaws in the Pfand system, so let me clear up a few issues.
What happens if someone else takes my glass while I am dancing, and tries to collect my Pfand? Well, when you get your drink, you also get a plastic coin or disk. Put that in your pocket. It’s proof that this is YOUR glass, and not someone else’s. Turning in a glass with no disk forfeits the Pfand. And by the way, you only have to pay it once… when you finish your beer, and go to the counter for another, they will refill your glass, or exchange it for another.
What about all the water used to wash dishes, isn’t there a drought? Granted, you do need to wash, and it takes water, but so does manufacturing paper and plastic. Grey water can be collected and used again for irrigation. Paper plates and plastic cups just go to the landfill. Besides, it gives another person a job if there is an opening for dishwasher!
Now, in some instances, you may want to sacrifice the Pfand. Gluhwein Vendors at the Christkindlmarkts often carry special mugs for their Gluhwein, and it makes a nice souvenir to bring it home. And I’m sure there are some students out there who sacrificed their Pfand to stock their kitchen cabinets with an interesting assortment of dinnerware.
Using a Pfand is a great system. The Vendors get their tableware and glasses back…. And I get to drink my wine out of real glass.
Another use of Pfand…
A Pfand is also paid when you buy bottles of beer/juice/soda and even some milk. The crate of bottles has a price, and extra is then charged by the market for the Pfand. The nice thing is that you get your Pfand money BACK when you return the bottles. And you don’t have to return the bottles to the store where you purchased them. Any retailer selling bottles is obligated to take bottles back. These standard sized bottles are then sterilized, refilled, and resold (unlike in the US where recycled materials have to be broken down and processed into something new… you never see a cola bottle being refilled here).
True, here in the US we offer money to people who recycle their bottles and cans at recycling centers… but how many people really bother? Here where I live it’s mostly vagrants or elderly people digging through the recycling bins the night before trash collection, and no one is getting rich off of it. If we made the amount high enough to feel it, perhaps more people would be careful to take advantage.
I would happily pay a Pfand at a festival or event… just to drink from a real glass, eat from a real plate, and NOT have to use plastic cutlery!