Towns hire ‘rubbish scouts’ to keep summer BBQs tidy

Towns and cities across Germany are tooling up for the summer, with many hiring extra staff to pounce on people sullying parks with barbecue rubbish.

Towns hire 'rubbish scouts' to keep summer BBQs tidy
Photo: DPA

It's a familiar sight in green spaces all over the Federal Republic: the morning after a particularly golden summer's evening, the grass is strewn with abandoned disposable barbecue trays, plastic cups and chicken bones.

Now town councils want to take on private security companies or even students to patrol their best-loved grilling spots and prod people into clearing up after themselves.

“We've noticed that it isn't enough to put out signs,” said Gerhard Bomhoff of the Werdersee Verein, which takes care of the lake of the same name near Bremen.

People enjoying the lake in the summer had been ignoring the barbecue area created by city authorities – so now four students have been hired to patrol the shore and give out information flyers and rubbish bags.

Meanwhile in Munich, 22 private security guards are now on patrol along the banks of the Isar river.

Rubbish piled around overflowing bins is a familiar sight in parks across Germany in summer. Photo: DPA

While they formerly only patrolled in the sunshine, they are now also deployed on rainy days as some die-hards were grilling under the city's bridges.

Munich faced a 150-tonne mountain of barbecue-related rubbish over summer 2015 – which cost the Bavarian capital some €5,000 per week to clean up.

Carrot or stick?

While the private security and students taken on in some cities can't hand out fines, other towns have ordered their police forces onto the case.

In Frankfurt, for example, police can slap messy party people with a €50 on-the-spot fine, as well as a bill for the cleanup.

Berlin has gone the other way, betting on providing large containers at popular barbecue spots like Mauerpark and the former airport at Tempelhof where people can get rid of their rubbish just metres away from designated grilling areas.

Many cities have also banned disposable barbecues and camp fires, as they leave unsightly burn marks on the grass.

But enterprising city politicians in Cologne and Düsseldorf have suggested a way to turn the barbecue problem into a money-making wheeze: installing electric grills at popular barbecue places that can be activated via a coin slot.

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Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus