Waste sorting in Germany. 1. Basic principles

Last Updated on June 26, 2022

I have never met another country where waste is sorted with such exactness. No, plastic is also separated in France. Glass is collected even in Italy. But to sort even plastic bags by their size, glass by color, and packaging by type – this is only in Germany!

However, I must say that not every Bürger acts by the rules. There are enough lazy people in any country.

In the first part about basic principles of waste sorting in Germany.

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Waste sorting in Germany – places and boxes

A inhabitant of Germany can throw garbage in four places:

  • into his boxes (Mülltonne). There can be 1-3 Mülltonne of different types. Basic and mandatory – black for unsorted waste, additional brown for bio waste, additional blue for cardboard. In large cities, it is also possible to throw out recyclable waste in a yellow bag – Gelber Sack
  • at the Recyclinghof waste collection point (packaging, paper, cardboard, glass, wood, small household appliances, batteries, clothing, aluminum, styrofoam etc.)
    or at the Deponie / Entsorgungszentrum / Wertstoffhof – special waste collection point (large rubbish, construction garbage)
  • into city boxes in every district or near shopping centers (glass, paper)
  • dangerous or bulky waste – only according to the prescribed rules (Sperrmüll, Schadstoff). Schadstoff (dangerous waste) you must bring to special car, which collect such waste. Time and place can be found in waste collection calender.

Each of these places only collects certain types of waste.

What do you have to pay for?

House boxes (Mülltonne) are rented or purchased. Instead of a box, you can use disposable labeled paper bags – if there is very little waste.

In large residential complexes, a large container belongs to the house. And then it is not necessary to buy it. But it is more expensive for each family living in the complex to remove such a container than to maintain their own boxes.

The recommended size for a black box for four persons when disposing of garbage every two weeks is at least 60 liters. This is if you also sort out the bio-waste. And if not, then you need a box with a volume of at least 80 liters.

An annual stamp is stuck on the box. You can buy it in the town hall or in shops to which the town hall delegates the sale of stamps. Waste collection is carried out once every one to two weeks or a month. Sometimes you can choose, sometimes it’s fixed. Waste collection calendar is sent at the end of the year for next year. The box must be taken to the side of the road the evening before the day of waste collection. Pay attention on the weather! I saw many times, how Mülltonne moved with the wind.

In addition to the annual stamp, you also pay a fixed city fee for waste collection from the house. The fee is distributed among tenants according to the rules established by the meeting of owners, and is set in the annual calculation of utility bills. The tenants receive this amount in the Nebenkosten account from the landlord for the year.

Every household can dispose large waste (Sperrmüll) once or twice a year for free. This is usually issued in the form of a coupon, which is part of the waste collection calendar. Or ordered online on the city’s website. A coupon with the list of waste must be sent to the firma, which collect waste. In response, it sends the date of removal. The volume is also limited.


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What can they be punished for?

An overfilled waste can may simply not be emptied.

If the “overseer” at the Recyclinghof notices, that you made an mistake, then more often he simply makes a remark, takes his clamping stick and pulls out a foreign object. But if you argue, swear, or you are caught not for the first time, then you can get a small fine.

The abandoned large waste left on the street is being studied by “waste” detectives. It is not uncommon, that the people can be identified, or caught the eye of witnesses who happily report them. In this case, they will face a fine already of a decent size.

Next – what waste is where

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