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

The Pfand system is a big part of sorting your trash in Germany. It's a bit confusing, but this guide will help you.

Pfand bottles

Bottles with a deposit

These bottles have a deposit1. You can return them at any store that sells them, and you will get some money back.

  • Beer bottles — 0.08€ (0.15€ for resealable bottles)
  • All aluminium cans — 0.25
  • Single-use (Einweg) plastic bottles — 0.25
  • Multiple-use (Mehrweg) glass and plastic bottles — 0.08€ to 0.151
  • Landliebe yoghurt containers
  • Some wine bottles — 0.03

Bottles with no deposit

These bottles can still be recycled, but they don't have a deposit.

  • Milk cartons and bottles
  • Most wine bottles
  • Bottles purchased in other countries
  • Containers with the Grüne Punkt logo1 — These go in the yellow recycling bin

How to sort trash in Germany ➞

How to identify Pfand bottles

Sometimes, there is a logo on the label, near the barcode. Sometimes, it's written directly on the container. Sometimes, there is no way to know. For example, beer bottles rarely have a Pfand symbol, but they almost always have a deposit.

Pfand logo can
The Pfand logo is often next to the barcode

Pfand logos

If you see one of these logos on the bottle, it has a Pfand. You can return it and get money back1.

Pfand logos germany
If you see one of these logos on the bottle, it has a Pfand. You can return it and get money back.

Pfand keywords

Look for these keywords on the label and on the container. It tells you if the bottle has a Pfand.

With Pfand: "Pfand-Glas", "Mehrwegflasche"

Without Pfand: "Pfandfrei", "Ohne Pfand"

Einweg and Mehrweg

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

How much is the deposit?

Between 8 and 25 cents. Single-use containers usually have a higher Pfand than multiple-use containers1.

    Where to return bottles in Germany?

    If a business sells Pfand containers, it must accept Pfand returns. It must not accept container types it doesn't sell. For example, Aldi and Lidl only sell single-use (Einweg) bottles, so they don't accept multiple use (Mehrweg) bottles1. If a store is larger than 200 m², it must accept containers from all brands, not just the brands it sells.

    • Supermarkets: look for a bottle return machine (Pfandautomat). They look like this. They are near the entrance, or at the back of the store. The machine will print a coupon. You must bring that coupon to the cash register to get your money back. Some grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl do not accept multiple-use (Mehrweg) bottles1, 2.
    • Liquor stores (Getränkemarkt): if you have a lot of bottles to return, this is the right place.
    • 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.

    It can be hard to return certain types of bottles. If one place does not accept all your bottles, try a different place.

    Pfandautomat edeka bottle return machine
    A bottle return machine (Pfandautomat) at Edeka

    Leaving bottles under trash cans

    In Berlin, you can leave your empty bottles next to a trash can. Some people collect empty bottles to earn a bit of money. You make their job easier, because they don't need to search inside the trash bin.

    Pfandflasche unter mull berlin
    You can leave empty Pfand bottles under a trash can