How to sort your trash and recycle in Germany

How to sort your trash and recycle 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.

Is it still useful?

If it could still be useful to someone, sell it or donate it. 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.

Clothes and shoes

If you have old clothes, donate them. You can use this donation bin locator to find bins and donation points in Berlin. If you can't donate them, old clothes go in the grey bin.

Old appliances

Appliances will be picked up for free by appliance resellers12 and scrap metal collectors (Schrötthandler)1. Search for "entsorgung" on eBay Kleinanzeigen to find people who want your old appliances.

Furniture and large items

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 old furniture.

Electronics, batteries, light bulbs

Used electronics, batteries, neon lights and energy-saving bulbs don't go in the trash1. Return them in special locations so they can be properly recycled. These places can recycle your old electronics:

  • 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

You can't throw old paint and lacquers in the trash. Return them at the hardware store. These hardware stores will accept your old paint:

Everything else

Does it have a Green Dot?

If it has a Green Dot, put it in the yellow bin. It doesn't matter if it's made of plastic, paper, cardboard or metal.

Does it have a deposit?

Some bottles and cans have a deposit (Pfand). Return them at the grocery store to get 8 to 25 cents per bottle. If you don't want to return them, you can donate your Pfand bottles to charity.

Related guide: How to identify Pfand bottles

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

  • Packaging with a Green Dot → yellow bin
  • Drink cartons → grey bin
  • Waxed paper → grey bin
  • Carbon paper → grey bin
  • Paper towels → grey bin
  • Greasy pizza boxes and dirty cardboard → grey bin

The green and white bins: glass

Non-Pfand glass containers go in the green or white containers. The white bin is for the white glass, and the green bin is for the coloured glass. If your building does not have those containers, look for "Glasigus" bins in your neighbourhood. 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

  • Packaging with a Green Dot → yellow bin
  • Broken glass → grey bin
  • Ceramics → grey bin
  • Crystal → grey bin
  • Pottery → grey bin
  • Flower pots → grey bin
  • Drinking glasses → grey bin
  • Christmas ornaments → grey bin
  • Light bulbs → special recycling (see above)
  • Neon lighting → special recycling (see above)

Make sure you remove the caps and empty your bottles and jars. The caps go in the yellow bin. The month-old spaghetti sauce goes in the grey bin.

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

The yellow/orange bin: plastic, metal and Green Dot

The yellow or orange bin is for metal, plastic and items with a Green Dot. 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 → grey bin
  • Batteries → special recycling (see above)
  • Wood → recycling centre, grey bin
  • CDs → grey bin
  • Cassette tapes → grey bin
  • Textiles → donation bins, grey 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 this article)
  • Vacuum cleaner bags → grey bin
  • Ashes → grey bin (once cold)
  • Textiles → donation bins, grey bin
  • Leather → donation bins, grey bin
  • Treated wood → recycling centre, grey bin
  • Litter and faeces → grey bin
  • Sand, stone and dirt → recycling centre

The grey/black bin: everything else

The grey or black bin (Restmüll) is for everything that does not fit in the other bins.

Comments

  • Aditi

    This is super helpful!!

    Reply

    • Reply to Aditi

  • Blai

    Dear Mr, Ms,

    I have a question regarding the end-of-life of ceramic packaging in Germany,

    There is a Spanish company which produces ceramic packages for food applications (i.e. yogurt) and would like to sell it in Germany.

    The company is interested to know what can advise to the consumers to do once they have enjoyed the food and would like to throw the package to the waste,

    I have seen in Germany you have places called “recycling centers”, maybe consumers can throw the packages there?

    Also it would be good to know what happens with the package once is collected, perhaps, may you know if these packages are recycled in some way?

    Thanks a lot,

    Best regards,

    Blai

    Reply

    • Reply to Blai

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