How to sort trash and recycle in Germany

Germans take recycling seriously. It’s hard to sort your trash correctly. This guide will help.

Types of recycling bins

Standard recycling bins

You find these bins in your apartment building:

  • 🔵 Blue bin (blaue Tonne)
    For paper and cardboard. You can’t use plastic bags for the blue bin.1 Flatten cardboard boxes before you recycle them.
  • 🟡 Yellow or orange bin (Wertstofftonne)
    For plastic and metal containers, and containers with the Grüner Punkt logo.
  • 🟤 Brown bin (Biomüll)
    For biodegradable goods. It’s used to make biogas and compost.2 Don’t use plastic or biodegradable bags, only paper bags.3
  • Grey bin (Restmüll)
    Things that you can’t sell, donate or recycle.
  • ♻️ Glass recycling bins (Glasiglus)
    For glass containers that don’t have a deposit (Pfand). In Berlin, you don’t need to clean glass containers.4 If your building does not have glass recycling bins, find them in your neighbourhood. There are 3 bin types:
    • 🟤 The Braunglas bin for brown glass
    • 🟢 The Grunglas bin for green, red and blue glass5
    • ⚪ The Weißglas bin for transparent glass

Other types of recycling bins

Recycling centres

Recycling centres accept almost everything. This is where you get rid of big items like construction materials, trees, furniture, appliances, carpets and mattresses.

List of recycling centres in Berlin – Berliner Stadtreinigung

Bulk trash collection days

On special days, you can bring furniture, mattresses and other big trash to special collection points in your neighbourhood. It’s easier than going to the recycling centre.

Bulk trash collection days – BSR

Containers and packaging

Paper and cardboard

  • 🔵 Paper and cardboard ➞ blue bin
    This includes egg cartons, bread bags, envelopes (even with plastic windows7). newspapers and magazines. Flatten boxes before you put them in the bin.8
  • 🟡 Grüner Punkt logo or Tetra Pak logo ➞ yellow bin
  • 🟡 Paper + plastic packaging ➞ yellow bin
    This includes bread bags with plastic windows,9 but not envelopes with plastic windows.10
  • 🟡 Milk cartons ➞ yellow bin11
    Plastic milk bottles have a Pfand.
  • 🟡 Tetra Pak ➞ yellow bin
  • 🟤 Paper towels, tissues ➞ brown bin
  • ⚫ Coated, waxed and thermal paper ➞ grey bin
    This includes receipts and paper coffee cups.
  • ⚫ Dirty or greasy paper ➞ grey bin
    This includes pizza boxes and take-out food containers.8





  • 🟡 Styrofoam ➞ yellow bin16
    This includes food containers and packing material.
  • Styrofoam isolation for buildings ➞ recycling centre


  • 🔵 Paper bags with plastic windows ➞ blue bin
    This includes bread bags with plastic windows,9 and envelopes with plastic windows.10


  • 🟤 Biodegradable food ➞ brown bin
    This includes leftover food, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, cheese, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, paper towels and bones.
  • Fat and cooking oil ➞ grey bin
    Don’t pour the fat down the kitchen drain, because it can block the pipes.17

Clothes and shoes

  • 🎁 Sell or donate
    If they are still good, sell or donate them
  • Old textiles ➞ recycling centre

Where to donate clothes in Berlin


Phones, computers and electronics

Electronics stores (bigger than 400 m²) must recycle your electronics.23 You don’t have to buy something there.

Big stores (bigger than 800 m²) that sell electronics must also recycle them, even if they are a different kind.23 You don’t have to buy something there. This includes hardware stores,6 supermarkets and drugstores.

In reality, most supermarkets don’t recycle electronics, even if they are required to.22

Recycling centres accept all electronics and appliances.


Supermarkets, electronics stores and hardware stores have battery recycling bins, usually near the door. Rossmann and dm also recycle batteries.

Battery recycling bin at Lidl
A battery recycling bin in a Lidl supermarket

Printer cartridges and toner

Cartridges and toners do not go in the yellow bin. Recycle them where you recycle small electronics.

Light bulbs

Furniture and appliances

Trees, soil and grass

  • 🟤 Plants, yard trimmings, soil, cut grass ➞ brown bin
  • Christmas trees ➞ collected in January
    Look at your city’s trash collection calendar (Abfuhrkalender). You just need to leave the tree next to the street. More information here.

Oil and paint

Other things

  • ⚫ Animal poop ➞ grey bin
    This includes dog poop and cat litter.
  • 🔵 Books ➞ sell, donate or put in the blue bin
  • ⚫ Baby diapers ➞ grey bin20
  • ⚫ Medicine and drugs ➞ grey bin.21 More information here.
Sources and footnotes





















  22. Deutsche Umwelthilfe, Twitter 

  23. §17 ElektroG,