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
- Bottle return machines (Pfandautomat)
For containers with a deposit (Pfand). These machines are in most supermarkets, usually near the door.
- Battery recycling bins
For used batteries. These bins are in most supermarkets, electronics stores and hardware stores, usually near the door. Rossmann and dm also recycle batteries.
- Electronics recycling bins
For used electronics and objects with the WEEE logo. These bins are in electronics stores, hardware stores, and some supermarkets. – More information
Recycling centres accept almost everything. This is where you get rid of big items like construction materials, trees, furniture, appliances, carpets and mattresses.
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
- 🟡 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
- 🟡 Plastic ➞ yellow bin
This includes food containers, plastic foil and bottle caps.
- Pfand logo ➞ return it, get money back
Most juice bottles have a Pfand.
- 🟡 Metal ➞ yellow bin
This includes aluminium foil.
- Pfand logo ➞ return it, get money back
Most metal drink cans have a Pfand. More information here.
- Glass ➞ glass recycling bins
The metal and plastic caps go in the yellow bin.12 In Berlin, you don’t need to clean glass containers.4
- Pfand logo or label ➞ return it, get money back
Most beer bottles have a Pfand. More information here.
- ⚫ Mirrors ➞ grey bin13
- ⚫ Crystal, porcelain and ceramic ➞ grey bin14
- ⚫ Light bulbs (incandescent or halogen) ➞ grey bin
- LED lights ➞ electronics recycling bin
- Energy-saving light bulbs ➞ recycling centre15
- 🟡 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
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.
- 🎁 Sell or donate
If they are still good, sell or donate them. You can also bring them to a repair café.
- Electronics ➞ electronics stores, hardware stores, supermarkets, recycling centres
- Batteries ➞ electronics stores, hardware stores, supermarkets, recycling centres
- Batteries ➞ electronics stores, hardware stores and supermarkets
- Car batteries ➞ auto parts store
They have a 7.50€ Pfand.18 A.T.U accepts car batteries.
Printer cartridges and toner
Cartridges and toners do not go in the yellow bin. Recycle them where you recycle small electronics.
- Incandescent light bulbs ➞ glass recycling bins
- Fluorescent light bulbs ➞ glass recycling bins
- Energy-saving light bulbs ➞ hardware store or recycling centre
- Neon lights ➞ hardware store or recycling centre
Furniture and appliances
- 🎁 Sell or donate
If it’s still good, sell or donate it.
- Appliances ➞ appliance collector, hardware store, or recycling centre
Stores that sell appliances must also recycle them for free. When you buy an appliance, they often take back your old appliance. You can also contact Wachmachinen Entsorgung Berlin.
- Big items ➞ recycling centre
This includes furniture, appliance and mattresses. In Berlin, BSR can pick up big items (for a fee)
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
- Paints, oils and lacquers ➞ hardware stores
Bauhaus, Hellweg, Hornbach and OBI will take it.
- Car oil ➞ garages, car parts stores and hardware stores
If a business sells car oil, they must accept your old oil.19
- ⚫ Cooking oil ➞ grey bin
- ⚫ 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.
- Recycling information in English, with printable sheet – BSR
- What goes where? (in German) – search tool by BSR