Environmental awareness in Germany
What is now a consensus view in Germany had its origins in the protests mounted by various groups against environmental pollution and especially radiation hazards associated with nuclear power stations. As early as 1978 the "Blue Angel" label was introduced for particularly environmentally compatible products, followed soon afterwards by the "Green Dot" label for recyclable packaging. The Germans soon became world champions in sorting and separating their household waste. The installation of catalytic converters in motor vehicle engines was also made mandatory at a relatively early date and comparatively strict emission standards were introduced together with regular statutory exhaust tests to monitor compliance ("ASU-Plakette").
Since 1986 there has been a Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
The world renowned Green Dot for recycling
All political parties in Germany include an explicit commitment to environmental protection in their programmes. Currently over four million people in Germany belong to an environmental organization such as BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany or Greenpeace. Recently a number of leading international companies based in Germany launched an initiative called "Business and Biodiversity".
Germany's efforts to improve environmental protection continue apace. In a bid to reduce pollution, several major German cities introduced in early 2008 low emissions zones, which can be entered only by motor vehicles with a special emissions-control windscreen sticker ("Umweltplakette"). Since January 2008 property owners are required to have the energy consumption and efficiency of their homes and buildings officially documented on a so-called energy-profile ID card. The Federal Government is also offering preferential loans and subsidies to help with the cost of insulation and environmentally compatible renovation.
Not only renewable energies but also waste management is regarded in Germany as a sector with a bright future. Although for years the German system of waste separation was deemed by many slightly absurd, it did create a commercially profitable recycling industry. In the face of growing commodity shortages, the recycling of paper, glass, metal and plastic waste is an increasingly important economic factor. According to the Federation of the German Waste Management Industry, Germany saves nearly four billion Euro a year in commodity and energy costs by "urban mining", i.e. the extraction and supply of secondary raw materials.