INTERNATIONAL: Public Education Power Unleashed In Germany

A keen awareness of the need to enlist citizen support for solid waste policies and programs has swept through Germany. Public administrators know that without the acceptance and cooperation of those involved, it is impossible to turn innovative measures into reality. The answer, they realize, lies in the persuasive power of continual public education.

From the state level down to the local level, German government of-fices turn out handy, attractive pamphlets and fliers to inform the public and raise the level of waste consciousness. These materials cover any and all municipal solid waste management activities that might need clarification. A representative sampling illustrates how they go about building cooperation among citizens.

In Germany's largest state, Bavaria, numerous informative materials are available through the State Ministry for Development and Environmental Issues. A series of quarterly publications began in the spring of 1992 with Stop the Garbage! This is a primer on available alternatives, state efforts and citizen responsibilities for treatment and disposal of household, commercial and special wastes. Emphasis is on prevention and recovery, in keeping with key goals of the state's Waste Management and Remediation Law, which is considered to be among the most advanced waste legislation in Europe.

Another of the State Ministry's booklets is more technical in style and content. It deals with thermal treatment of wastes. To convey the acute need for responsible waste management, this booklet includes a graph of the steeply rising waste volumes in Munich, the capital city of Bavaria (see chart). Clear explanations provide an understanding of modern technology for combustion, air pollution control and ashfills while dispelling popular misconceptions.

In Berlin, the diverse printed materials available through the Department of Sanitation (BSR) and the Office for City Development and Environmental Protection can fill a briefcase. This collection ranges from whimsically illustrated booklets on what to do with waste and recyclables to wallet-size foldouts complete with a list of BSR services and a map of facilities. For history buffs, a trifold depicts the pro- gress in waste collection and hauling over four centuries. For the more technical minded, there are now data sheets with diagrams of the city's transfer and combustion facilities.

In Cologne, a manual has been developed to teach preschoolers about waste as well as other environmental themes.

The mid-sized city of Wuppertal distributes a Waste and Environ-mental Almanac slim enough to fit in a breast pocket. The booklet addresses citizens' concerns and questions and reinforces positive behavior by citing progress in conserving disposal capacity. Topics include recycling, backyard composting, bulky waste, household hazardous waste collection, remediation of local contaminated sites and packaging reduction.

Even the smaller communities put together practical guides for their citizens. The city of Norder-stedt, for example, has compiled 52 Environmental Tips into a condensed reference book. Readers can learn how to save energy and cooperate with community efforts to cut pollution. Varied means are presented to reduce or prevent waste during gardening, washing, house cleaning, construction and remodeling.

In an effort not to exclude the millions of "guest workers" and tourists, some cities produce their anti-waste materials in other languages. Mannheim, for example, prepared a brochure in Turkish; Kiel distributes fliers for shoppers from Scandinavia; and Berlin provides data in English on frequently visited facilities.

Public relations materials are not limited to the printed word. The city of Gottingen, for instance, offers a video for schools and other waste management training situations. The state of Baden-Wurttem-berg also has produced a video on reducing school waste, plus a prize-winning comic strip called "The Magic Apprentice and the Trash."

With support from the chamber of commerce, Esslingen county is waging its minimal waste campaign with humorous fliers, posters and radio spots. In 1992 households were the focus. This year, the "paper tiger" is stalking after office waste.

The Germans have become masters at producing concise, user-friendly information for educating the general public on environmental issues. Typically printed on grayish recycled paper, the documents contain convenient reference pages for quick access to addresses, telephone numbers and facility operating hours. Those who generate these materials are communications specialists, often on staff. Starting with a clear grasp of their readers' needs, they combine lively graphic design with lucid language to hit the target dead center.

The tacit assumption behind successful public education is that the community must do its part first and serve as a role model to its citizens.