At World Cup, Beer Cans Mean Quick Cash

Joseph Werwra, a retiree in this city famed for its pre-Lenten carnival and bacchanalian ways, values a good bottle of lager — provided it's empty.

Like thousands of other savvy Germans, Werwra is cashing in on the World Cup by collecting the piles of empty glass and plastic bottles and aluminum tossed away by partying fans who are unaware — or just don't care — that they carry a hefty deposit.

"Just today, I've made 80 euros (US$101)," the 72-year-old said this week as England and Sweden fans celebrated a draw that put both teams into the tournament's knockout phase. "It is, simply, easy money."

Since the World Cup started June 9, Germans — be they down on their luck adults or teenagers looking for quick spending money — have been tidying up fan festivals in the 12 host cities, toting away plastic or canvas bags stuffed to the brim with valuable bottles and cans.

Germans are among the world's most zealous recyclers, carefully sorting their garbage into four different color-coded cans. Nearly everything, from cars to watch batteries to paper-based milk packaging, can find a second life here.

While not everything recyclable carries a deposit, the cans that unwitting fans simply throw away are worth 15 euro cents, or more than 18 U.S. cents. The glass beer bottles net 8 euro cents, or a dime.

If they are broken, however, you won't get a penny.

Most German grocery stores have vending machines that let people deposit the liter-sized bottles on a conveyor belts, then issue small receipts that can be cashed in at the check-out.

In Frankfurt recently, several people — many of them young adults — could be seen picking up plastic Coke bottles scattered across a public viewing area. They stacked them to the brim of large blue bags from furniture store Ikea.

Werwra, who was pushing a shopping cart laden with red cases filled with bottles, and stopping every few meters or so to pick up another trophy, said he was supplementing his pension income.

Unlike many Germans, who fear English fans for their legendary rowdiness, he welcomes them as a financial boon.

"The English fans, they leave behind lots of bottles," he said. "They drink a lot."