The Pfand system: how to return bottles in Germany

The Pfand system: how to return bottles in Germany

This quick guide shows you which bottles and cans have a deposit in Germany, and how you can recognize them.

In Germany, there is a bottle return system. When you purchase certain products, you pay a deposit (Pfand) for the bottle. When you return the empty bottle, you get your deposit back. This encourages people to return their empty bottles. The empty bottles are then reused or recycled.

At first, it's hard to know which bottles and cans have a Pfand, and which don't. This guide will help you.

How to identify Pfand bottles

You can recognize Pfand bottles by looking at their label, usually near the barcode. You have to look closely. Some bottles use logos, and some use keywords.

Pfand logos

   

Pfand keywords

With Pfand: "Pfand-Glas", "Mehrwegflasche"
Without Pfand: "Pfandfrei", "Ohne Pfand"

Common bottles with a deposit

These bottles have a deposit. You can return them at any store that sells them, and you will get some money back.

  • Beer bottles
  • Soft drink bottles (glass or plastic)
  • Aluminum cans
  • Water bottles (glass or plastic)
  • Landliebe yoghurt containers
  • All multiple-use (Mehrweg) containers

Common bottles with no deposit

These bottles can still be recycled, but they don't have a deposit. For more info, see How to sort trash in Germany.

  • Most milk and juice bottles
  • Most wine bottles
  • Bottles purchased in other countries
  • Bottles with the Grüne Punkt logo1

How much is the deposit?

There are two types of containers with a deposit: single-use and multiple-use. Multiple-use containers will be cleaned up and reused. Single-use containers will be destroyed and recycled.

  • Multiple-use (Mehrweg) bottles: 8 to 15 cents
     
  • Single-use (Einweg) bottles: 25 cents
     

Where to return bottles in Germany?

If a commerce sells Pfand bottles, it also accept bottle returns. Stores do not need to accept bottle types they don't sell. Even if a bottle has a deposit, the store can refuse it1.

  • Grocery stores: look for bottle return machines. They are either near the entrance, or at the back of the store. The machine will print a coupon that can be exchanged at the cash register.
  • Liquor stores: if you have a lot of bottles to return, this is the right place. They will rarely accept anything but beer bottles.
  • Spätis: Spätis will accept the bottles they sold you. They are not a good place to return a lot of bottles.
  • Charities: Some charities will accept bottle donations. Pfandgeben is the best way to find them.

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