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.

Understanding the Pfand system is an important part of sorting your trash in Germany. This guide will help you.

How to identify Pfand bottles

Look at the label on the bottle. Some bottles have Pfand logos, and other bottles use text. The logo or text is often near the barcode. It is sometimes written directly on the glass.

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 business sells Pfand containers, it also accept Pfand returns. It must also accept containers from other brands, not just the brand it sells.

A business 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
A bottle return machine (Pfandautomat) at Edeka