How to sort your trash in Germany

How to sort your trash in Germany

Germans take their trash very seriously, and it may take a while for newcomers to understand what goes in which bin. This guide will show you how to sort your trash ​in Germany.

Germans take their trash very seriously, and it may take a while for newcomers to understand what goes in which bin. This guide will guide you through the complicated process of sorting your trash in Berlin. Buckle up, it's a wild ride.

Reduce, recycle reuse

If you can reuse, resell, donate or upcycle your things before sending them to the trash, do so! Clothes, empty bottles, old furniture and electronics will always find a taker, whether it's on Free Your Stuff Berlin or among Berlin's many charities.

Special items

Some items do not belong in your apartment building's recycling bins. Among those are Pfand bottles, batteries, electronics, dead animals and anything that can be donated.

Furniture and oversized trash

You can request BSR to pick up your oversized trash (for a fee) or take it to one of their 15 recycling centers. You can also sell or donate your usable furniture.

Appliances and scrap metal

Appliances will be picked up for free by appliance resellers1, 2 and scrap metal collectors (Schrötthandler)1. Simply search for "entsorgung" on eBay Kleinanzeigen and you will find several candidates who are willing to help.

Clothes and shoes

The easiest way to donate clothes is to look for a donation box near you. You can use this donation bin locator to find bins and donation points from various organisms. Textiles that cannot be donated belong to the gray bin.

Many charities in Berlin also accept clothes donations. Among them are:

Empty bottles and jars

Some glass and plastic bottles have Pfand. Once you learned how to identify bottles and cans with Pfand, you can return them to your local grocery store for 8 to 25 cents per bottle. If don't want to return your empties yourself, you can donate them.

Electronics, appliances, batteries and light bulbs

Used electronics and batteries must be returned in special locations so they can be properly recycled. You may not simply throw them away. The following places accept electronics returns:

  • Deutsche Post - You print out a label and ship your used batteries and electronics for free
  • MediaMarkt - Returns are possible in every branch
  • Saturn - Returns are possible in every branch
  • Hornbach - Returns are possible in every branch
  • BSR - 15 recycling points in Berlin
  • DM, Aldi and REWE - Battery recycling bins near the cash registers in some branches

Paint and lacquers

Unused paint can be returned at most hardware stores.

Dead animals

See How to dispose of a dead animal in Berlin

The blue bin: paper and cardboard

The blue bin is the easiest of them all: it's where the paper and cardboard goes.

Yes

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Flyers
  • Egg cartons
  • Corrugated cardboard

No

  • Drink cartons → gray bin
  • Waxed paper → gray bin
  • Carbon paper → gray bin
  • Paper towels → gray bin
  • Greasy pizza boxes and dirty cardboard → gray bin

The green and white bins: glass

Non-Pfand glass containers belong to the green and white containers. The white bin is for the white glass, and the green bin is for the colored glass. If your building does not have those containers, there should be a pair of "Glasigus" bins in your area to receive your bottles. You can find them using this Glasigus locator.

Yes

  • Mason jars - the metal cap goes in the yellow bin
  • Non-refundable beer and wine bottles
  • Oil and vinegar bottles
  • Perfume bottles
  • Empty glass pharmaceutical bottles

No

  • Broken glass → gray bin
  • Ceramics → gray bin
  • Crystal → gray bin
  • Pottery → gray bin
  • Flower pots → gray bin
  • Drinking glasses → gray bin
  • Christmas ornaments → gray bin
  • Light bulbs → special recycling
  • Neon lighting → special recycling

Make sure you remove the caps and empty your bottles and jars before disposing of them. Metal and plastic caps belong to the yellow/orange bins, and month-old spaghetti sauce belongs to the gray bin.

Neons and energy-saving lightbulbs do not belong in the trash. They should be disposed of at your local recycling center, or in special bins at your local hardware store.

The yellow/orange bin: plastic and metal

The yellow or orange bin is for metal and plastic. If it's made of metal or plastic, it belongs here. You must empty the containers before recycling them. Ketchup and moldy yoghurt is not recyclable.

Yes

  • Metal
  • Plastic packaging
  • Non-refundable plastic bottles
  • Condiment bottles
  • Yoghurt containers
  • Non-refundable cans
  • Metal cans
  • Composite packaging

No

  • Styrofoam → gray bin
  • Batteries → special recycling
  • Wood → recycling centre, gray bin
  • CDs → gray bin
  • Cassette tapes → gray bin
  • Textiles → donation bins, gray bin

The brown bin: biodegradable goods

The brown bin is for all biodegradable goods.

Yes

  • Fruit and vegetables and their peels
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Teabags
  • Egg shells
  • Leftovers
  • Flowers, foliage, yard trimmings and mowed grass
  • Old newspaper

No

  • Dead animals → special recycling (see related article)
  • Vacuum cleaner bags → gray bin
  • Ashes → gray bin (once cold)
  • Textiles → donation bins, gray bin
  • Leather → donation bins, gray bin
  • Treated wood → recycling centre, gray bin
  • Litter and feces → gray bin
  • Sand, stone and dirt → recycling centre

The gray/black bin: everything else

The gray or black bin is for everything that does not fit in the other bins.