Refuse Collection and Recycling in Germany

Information on the management of household waste in Germany. What you can and can't throw in the dustbin and how and where to dispose of household waste, toxic products, electronic equipment and garden waste...

Management of household waste and recycling in Germany is under the responsibility of the local authorities, and the rules for recycling can differ between regions.

Recycling stations (Recyclinghof) can be found in most areas.

Waste is collected on designated days. The local registration office can provide a schedule with details on which bins to bring out on what dates.

Colour coded bins for recycling are normally found ‘on the doorstep’:  grey, brown, yellow, blue and green.

Residual Waste

Residual waste (Restmüll ) which is not reusable, nor pollutants, should be put in the grey bin.  In some cities this bin has a red lid, in others a black lid. There is sometimes a fee to pay for the collection of residual waste.

Recycling

Organic waste, such as food left overs, should be put in the brown (in some areas a green) bin.

Glass, to which a deposit (Pfand) has been paid, is returnable. Other glass should be recycled in the bottle banks, and separated into white, brown and green glass. Recycling of glass is only allowed during working hours.

Plastic bottles, metal packaging and drinks cartons (PMD waste) often carrying the symbol of a green point (Der Grüne Punkt) should be recycled in the yellow bin (Gelbe Tonne) or yellow bin bag (Gelber Sack). The yellow bags can be bought in supermarkets, and are sometimes distributed for free at the city hall.

Paper and cardboard are collected in blue paper barrels.

Textiles are picked up by various associations at announced times. It can also be brought to flea markets (Trödelmarkt), or left at special containers for old clothes and shoes.

Dangerous or Toxic Products

Medication should be returned to a pharmacy.

Batteries: should be left in a collection box which can be picked up in – and returned to - supermarkets or shops.

Small hazardous waste or chemical waste should be brought to a collection site for hazardous materials, or be left at the hazmat-mobile.

Garden Waste

Garden waste should be put in special compost containers (Kompost-Container).

Christmas trees have a special pick up day (Abholung der Weihnachtsbäume).

Disposing of large objects

Bulky (miscellaneous) waste (Sonstige- or Sperrmüll) is picked up at announced times. They can also be brought to a special recycle station (Recyclinghof). There might be a fee to pay.

Electrical and electronic appliances as well as renovation and construction waste should be brought to the recycling station.