What is Pfand? the Ransom Price for Real Glass


pfandLeave 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?

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.

pfandWhat 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.

pfandWhat 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!

what is pfandNow, 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…

what is pfandA 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!

what is pfand

6 thoughts on “What is Pfand? the Ransom Price for Real Glass

  1. Hi, I’m from Germany and I live in Berlin. I love your writing about Pfand and I think it’s a good thing for our environment, but also for some people. In big cities like Berlin you can see so called “Pfandsammler”. These people often have a small income, no job or are asylum seekers. They search the dustbins and the streets for bottles with Pfand. So we often sacrifice bottles when we go out so we don’t have to take the bottles home and somebody else will get the money.
    In big cities we likely park the Pfand beside the dustbin so Pfandsammler don’t have to stick their arms into the dustbins. It’s working pretty good, you don’t see many bottles or coca cola cans (cans also have pfand!) on german streets.
    Sometimes you even see things like this: http://www.derwesten.de/img/incoming/crop8373773/599335537-cImg0273_543-w616-h225/Pfandring.jpg

    1. We have people digging through the recycling bins here too. I try to leave my bottles by the side of the can for them.
      The Pfand system does keep the streets cleaner.

  2. We lived in Kerzell (Landkreis Eichenzell) for a year and a half before moving to Wildflecken. We were about 8 km from the Will Bier brewery in Motten. We had weekly deliveries of bier, Kraftmaltz and Apfelsaft. We paid a pfand with every delivery. We REALLY liked Will Bier! Wish we could get it here in California!

  3. This is a great idea. I live in Maine and we have a deposit paid on all beverage containers except for milk. You hardly ever see bottle left laying around because someone will always take them to turn in and get 5 cents. That might not seem like much but when you save them for awhile it can add up. Now if only they would reuse the bottles instead of recycling. Bottles use to be reused until they were chipped or broke altogether. Kids sports teams will have bottle drive to raise money for their team. My son’s team once raise over $1,500 in one day.

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