(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 2 of a two-part series on recycling and trash rules in Germany. This was first posted on Audrey is (a)broad. You can see Pt. 1 here.)
You may have heard Germany has rules. There are also many rules about trash and recycling.
It’s not super fair to exaggerate and say “of course Germany has so many rules about trash; there’s rules about everything else” because pretty much every region has rules about trash. Otherwise, we’d live in not great places to sustain life.
It just seems like Germany’s rules are overly specific.
Let’s start with the easy stuff: glass. Any kind of bottle or glass jar that is non-returnable and on which you did not pay a deposit. or “Pfand,” belongs in the designated glass bins. This includes wine bottles, jam/preserve jars, oil bottles, juice bottles and even bath-salt bottles. Ceramics, china, mirrors and wine corks do not belong in the glass bins.
Glass is sorted by color. There are different slots for depositing green, brown and clear glass. You will find these bins dotted over
every neighborhood. The only thing to take note of here is the times when you should not recycle.
Remember Quiet Time?
That is not the time to recycle your bottles or you will have a couple of very irate neighbors on your hands.
Does it have a deposit?
Some bottles and cans have a deposit (Pfand). Return them at the grocery store to get 8 to 25 euro cents per bottle. OR leave bottles at the base of public trash cans, like those found at bus stops, for others to pick up.
That is the hazardous waste, which includes fluorescent tubes, batteries and acids, cans of paint still containing paint, thinners, adhesives, corrosives, disinfectants, insecticides, and so forth, has to be treated as hazardous waste. You will receive a notice from your local town council on when and where the truck collecting this kind of waste, will be.
You need to bring your stuff to the site for them to dispose of it in the proper manner. If this waste ends up in the gray bin, it will be burnt with the rest of the “gray” waste, which could result in extremely poisonous gasses.
Batteries are disposed of separately. Look out for a small bin (it looks like a small garbage bin) at your local shopping area. You can deposit your used batteries here for proper disposal.
Electronics, batteries, light bulbs
Used electronics, batteries, neon lights and energy-saving bulbs don’t go in the trash. Return them in special locations so they can be properly recycled.
These places can recycle your old electronics:
• 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
If you are still left with something you would like to throw away (heaven forbid!) and do not think that it belongs on the “Trödelmarkt“/fleamarket, you have the opportunity at certain announced times to place your stuff outside when Sonstige– or Sperrmüll (miscellaneous items) – will be gathered. This could include a sofa, broken hi-fi, chairs, building materials, etc.
The funny thing is that not much of this stuff ends up on the garbage dump since many second-hand dealers or “collectors” drive round the neighborhood to inspect the thrown out stuff. The majority of it gets loaded into private vans long before the municipal vans come around!
Another useful feature of the waste disposal system in most cities is the Recyclinghof, an outlying area to which you can transport your trash and Spermüll with your car. They are equipped with containers for the deposit of such things as furniture, batteries, electrical and electronic items, paper, plastic, cans, glass, wood and garden waste, The personnel there can guide you to the proper bin.
When and where does it all go?
Depending on where you live, there’s a schedule for when the collectors come and take it to the Mülldeponie (dump). Generally, each bin is taken away every 14 days on a staggered schedule. Wiesbaden’s Abfallkalendar (trash pickup calendar) is here.
It’s not trash, but I don’t want it.
Did you too watch all of Tidying Up and nothing in your house sparks joy for you anymore? Search for “entsorgung” on eBay Kleinanzeigen to find people who want your appliances, clothes, decorations and other household goods. And then, in the circle of life, you too can pick up new old things too!
Christmas tree pickup happens around 6 January thru 20 January, again depending on your address. Trees go out on the sidewalk with all the pretty things removed. Your removal date can be found on the trash calendar linked above.
Have you run into any landlord, neighbor or Hausmeister trash issues? I’d love to hear about them!
About the author:
Audrey Shankles is an American who moved to Germany, and who writes about how that’s going at www.a-broad.com. She comes from the Washington DC region in the United States and has been in Germany for more than five years. While she misses the Nats, the Caps and brunches along the Potomac, she’s fallen in love with the Rheingau, 3 euro beers, and taking the train everywhere.
Audrey has held a multitude of jobs and explored numerous careers and fancies herself a “person who does things with people she likes.” When writing, she focuses on helping people understand their appliances and recipes in German, posts her personal thoughts about living abroad and her failures at integrating into German society.
See all of Audrey’s Dispatches posts here.