Climate & environment
What do I need to pay attention to when it comes to separating waste in Germany and what kinds of waste are there?
The correct separation of waste is important for recycling.
Waste glass (primarily container collection)
- all empty glass packaging, sorted by color
- Window glass, tableware, mirrors, light bulbs, ceramic, porcelain and crystal glass are not disposed of in the waste glass collection, but need to be put in the bin for residual waste (grey bin, graue Tonne)
Waste paper (container and blue bin, blaue Tonne)
- packages made of paper and cardboard,
- shipping boxes,
- magazines/newspapers, exercise books, etc.
- Thermal paper such as sales slips or travel tickets as well as wall coverings need to be put in the bin for residual waste (grey bin), liquid packaging boards need to be put in the yellow bin (gelbe Tonne) or yellow sack (gelber Sack).
- Pizza boxes can only be put into the bin for paper waste when they are not dirty. In case of doubt, please put them in the grey bin. Empty boxes for frozen pizza can always be put in the bin for paper waste.
Yellow bin and yellow sack
- all empty packages except glass/paper (e. g. made of plastic, metals or composites as well as liquid packaging boards)
- Separating materials whenever possible facilitates recycling (e. g. take off the cap of a yoghurt cup or juice bottle and put the cardboard banderole in the waste paper bin).
- empty the packages first (e. g. empty packages with spoiled food into the organic waste bin). Rinsing the packaging is not necessary.
Organic waste (organic waste bin)
- all organic waste generated in kitchen and garden, e. g. fruits/vegetables, leftovers, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, lawn and hedge cuttings, weeds).
- Never throw plastic bags or packaging into the organic bin, you are putting the utilization of the compost at risks. See also: Plastic bags made of so-called organic plastic are not an alternative.
Residual waste (grey bin)
- Especially waste that cannot be further recycled and does not count as consisting of problematic materials is disposed of in the residual waste bin. Medical face masks or FFP2 masks, out-of-date medicines, hygiene products and papers, diapers, tableware, mirror glass or window glass, vacuum cleaner bags, refuse, cat litter, leftover wallpaper, photos, dried up colors, ash or ashtray content are some examples.
- Waste disposal is regulated differently depending on the municipalities. The municipalities stipulate how residual waste is defined in their municipality and what kinds of waste need to be collected separately.
Electrical and electronical devices
- contain many harmful substances, but also some valuable substances and therefore cannot be put in the residual waste bin (graue Tonne).
- Recycling centers and municipal collection points accept all sorts of electrical and electronical devices.
- Certain retailers (sales area for electrical and electronical devices of more than 400 m2, e. g. electrical stores, construction markets) as well as food retailers with a sales area of more than 800 m2 have to take back larger electrical and electronical devices free of charge when selling a device of the same device type, in the case of smaller devices (< 25 cm), a new purchase is not necessary. Smaller retailers also take back electrical and electronical devices voluntarily.
Batteries and accumulators
- can contain materials harmful for health and environment and therefore must not be put in the residual waste bin (grey bin).
- Collection boxes and containers can be found everywhere in retail where new batteries can be bought (e. g. in supermarkets, drugstores, electrical shops, construction markets, gas stations, kiosks) as well as in municipal collection points (e. g. recycling centers, collective vehicles) and collection points for voluntary collection (e. g. companies, authorities, universities).
- Textiles that are still in good condition, for example clothing, shoes and other accessories (belts, hats, caps, scarves, shawls, gloves) should be checked for options of reuse (e. g. donation/sale to charitable establishments, second hand stores, online platforms, exchange and gift markets)
- Old textiles need to be put in the collection containers organized by public-law disposal providers and/or profit-making and non-profit collectors.
- Heavily polluted textiles from private households are put in the residual waste bin.
- Harmful substances such as liquid colors and varnishes, household and garden chemicals, adhesives, waste oil or construction and demolition waste are not disposed of in the residual waste bin (grey bin).
- As waste disposal is organized differently depending on the municipality, the municipal waste consultancy or the municipal administration will give you helpful information.
What do I need to consider when buying reusable bottles (Mehrwegflaschen) and one-way bottles (Einwegflaschen) and what tips can I follow?
Buy and use reusable bottles – ideally from the region.
Do not use one-way bottles or cans.
Drink tap water. It is the most environmentally-friendly beverage when it is pure, but even still when it is carbonated.
Good to know
Reusable bottles are generally more environmentally friendly than one-way bottles. The usage of energy and resources for return transport and purification is often less considerable than the additional production effort for one-way bottles. This applies all the more, the more regionally the selling takes place and the higher the number of refills is.
Prefer reusable bottles over one-way bottles. Reusable bottles from the region are the number one choice for the environment. Here, it does not play a role whether the reusable bottles are made of glass or if they are PET bottles. However, it has become more difficult to recognize real reusable bottles due to the obligatory banderole on one-way drink packaging. One can often recognize reusable bottles by their logo “Mehrweg – für die Umwelt” or the blue angel sign (Blauer Engel). Bottle deposit for reusable bottles is usually 8 or 15 cents.
Avoid disposable bottles: plastic bottles that can be creased are always one-way bottles. They will not be refilled, but shredded and recycled. A good starting point from which to differentiate between one-way bottles that are subject to deposit and reusable bottles that can be deposited is the DPG symbol on one-way bottles and the amount of the deposit. Bottle deposits for one-way bottles always amounts to 25 cents.
Drinking tap water: In Germany, drinking water is of very good quality and still by far the most inexpensive beverage. With a sparkling water maker, carbonated water can be easily produced at home. This saves money and spares you the effort of lifting heavy boxes.