How to sort waste in Germany – what waste is going where

Last Updated on October 9, 2023

For residents and visitors, the authorities of many cities have made flyers in various languages with information, how to sort waste in Germany. You can find them on the town hall website. These flyers are not always detailed. I tried to collect all variants.

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Waste collection points Recyclinghof or “yellow” bag (Gelber sack)


Blank paper is thrown into your blue box, if there is one, or the nearest large city box or the Recyclinghof.

Paper includes:

envelopes, postcards
newspapers, magazines,
paper packaging
books, telephone directories
uncoated gift paper
wrapping paper

Dirty and oily paper goes to bio waste.
Paper with inclusions (shiny layer, etc.) – in a black box.

Cardboard (Pappe, Kartonage)

We throw it into our blue box or take it to Recyclinghof:

corrugated cardboard
egg cartons (clean)

Thin small cartons from products at the Recyclinghof may be asked to be thrown into paper rather than carton.

“Yellow bag”

Throw without sorting into a yellow bag, if you have it, or sort at the Recyclinghof. A yellow bag without sorting is a service of large cities, one of the advantages of living in such a city. All others sort with their own hands. All of the following should be clean. Why? It stinks strongly, spreads the infection.

The yellow bag goes (in brackets – the name of the container, if you need to sort yourself for Recyclinghof):

– aluminum foil
– coffee packaging and the like, food boxes, aluminum cans, aluminum lids for dairy products (Verpackungsaluminium)
– juice or milk packaging (Getränkekartons)
– glass jar lids (Dosen)
– iron cans, tin cans (Dosen)
– spray cans (completely empty) (Dosen)
– paint cans (clean) (Dosen)
– plastic packaging for yoghurt, sour cream, margarine, vegetables and fruits (Becher)
– vegetable nets (Sonstige Kunststoff)
– plastic bags and packaging (depending on size: Folien larger than Din A4 and Sonstige Kunststoff – smaller than A4)
– Toothpaste tubes (Sonstige Kunststoff)
– corks (natural) (Korken)
– plastic bottles that cannot be returned to the store (Flaschen)
– clean shampoo packs and other cosmetics (Flaschen)
– Clean detergent bottles bearing the recycling mark (Flaschen)
– White foam packaging (Styropor)

Old metal

To Altmetall container at Recyclinghof or Deponie / Wertstoffhof
For example, bicycles (tires are also removed in a black box), tools, wires, pipes.

Glass (bottles)

In an Altglas container of the corresponding color: local city waste collection or at the Recyclinghof. Transparent – in white glass, brown – in brown, everything else – in green.

Not suitable: ceramics, porcelain, fireproof glass, window glass, light bulbs.

Specific sortable waste

Small boxes for collecting specific waste at the Recyclinghof:

batteries (Batterien / Akku),
natural cork (Korken),
ceramic vessels (Steingut),
cables (Kabelreste),
light bulbs (Energiesparlampen, tube lamps),
cartridges, ink tanks (Tintenpatronen, also given in stores that sell them).

Electrical devices

Small electrical appliances are gave off at the Recyclinghof (Elektrokleingeräte).

The maximum size is determined by the hole in the container. If it does not fit, then it is Sperrmüll. Usually these are CD-Player, microwaves, laptops.

Green garden trash

Leaves, grass, branches of bushes and trees (but not: rotten fruit, food debris). Small numbers at the Recyclinghof, large numbers at Häckselplatz.


Not longer than 1.20 m. Furniture and wooden parts intended for outdoor use (fences, doors, gates, etc.) are not accepted.

Old clothes

Things that can still be worn (Altkleider). Sometimes they ask to put it in a bag. Boots – tie together.

Unbearable things – in a black box!

Biotonne (brown box)

Please note that you need to collect biomass in a special biopack. Some cities have stricter rules for the selection of bio-waste, and then their list is shorter.

– dirty paper, dirty egg cartons, dirty disposable cardboard dishes, dirty wrapping paper
– peeling potatoes and other vegetables, fruits
– shells of eggs, nuts
– meat scraps
– hair
– feathers
– coffee and tea filters, bags
– ash (from wood)
– kitchen napkins / paper towels, tissue paper
– houseplants, earth in small quantities, sawdust, flowers

Deponie / Entsorgungszentrum

Large furniture, household devices that cannot be given away as Sperrmüll. Construction garbage. Wooden objects for the street (fences, gates, poles, etc.).

Christmas trees

Christmas trees are collected by various societies (they drop flyers with the dates of the collection in the mailboxes or print them in local newspapers). If no one collects centrally, then you can hand over to the compost heap (Häckselplatz).

Unsorted waste (Restmüll) – black box

pieces of plastic
cosmetic wipes
rags, fabric, wool remains, sponges, napkins
non-wearable things, boots, bed linen, curtains, tights
shower curtains
Christmas decorations
broken glass, dishes (ceramics, faience, glass)
the remains of fish, bones
car air filters
magnets and magnetic tapes, cassettes, floppy disks, filmstrips
brushes, pens, pencils, markers
coated paper, coated gift wrap, transparent paper
carbon paper
dolls, broken toys
razor blades
umbrellas, gloves
hygiene products, diapers
trash bags for vacuum cleaner
wallpaper in small quantities, wallpaper glue
alcohol thermometers
dressings for wounds, cotton wool, cotton swabs
wax paper (wax can sometimes be returned to Recycling), oilcloth
water filters
rubber, rubber balls and other rubber items
toothbrushes, combs
charcoal grill
halogen lamps, other bulbs, broken glass, vases, glasses
office supply (folders, etc.)
bicycle tires
disposable tableware, freezer bags


It is picked up for coupons (which must be sent to the office and get the date of pick up). Or it can be other rules established in the city.

This waste includes furniture, suitcases, skis, large toys, mattresses, carpets, strollers, child seats, lamps.

Does not include: small toys, carpet trimmings, boxes and other small items. Metal objects (TVs, refrigerators, stoves, bicycles, etc.) are collected together or separately.

Schadstoff (harmful waste)

Harmful garbage is removed by special vehicles (Schadstoffmobil or Giftmobil), which arrive on schedule at the garbage collection points or at the addresses indicated in the calendar (for example, in the school yard).

We look at the packaging: if there is a warning sign on an orange background, then we collect it separately and also throw it away separately.

Harmful waste includes:

paints, varnishes (including for nails)
stain removers
cleaning agents
fertilizers and plant protection products
containers with oil, oil filters
car batteries and accumulators
sprays with residual contents.

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