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The proper way to separate waste in Germany

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

If you have ever wondered how to separate household waste while in Germany, here are some tips to help you out. In Germany, you can get a fine of up to 1.500€ if you do not follow the waste management procedures.

The proper way to separate waste in Germany. Image related to separating waste in Germany, showing a person holding different types of waste items and standing in front of bins with color-coded labels for proper waste disposal.

One of the confusing questions you may have in your first week relocating to Germany would be how to separate the household waste. The reduction of residual waste allows us to use smaller or fewer residual waste bins, which can reduce the cost of disposal.

Materials that are not recyclable

The term residual waste refers to waste that can no longer be recycled. Most of these wastes are burned in thermal power stations and converted into electricity and district heating.

Unfortunately, a large number of recyclable materials end up in the residual waste bin. The amount of residual waste can be significantly reduced by consistently separating waste at home itself.

Nevertheless, using smaller or fewer residual waste bins will reduce your waste fees if you separate your waste better and throw less waste into them.

What can be thrown in the gray residual waste bin?
  • Vacuum cleaner bags

  • Litter for cats and small animals

  • Sanitary paper and diapers

  • Carbonless paper and paper wax

  • Etc…

Paper wastes

Paper and cardboard should be disposed of in the blue bin. Separating paper waste from non recyclable waste saves energy and water and protects forests because waste paper is reused in new paper production.

What can you put in the blue paper bins?
  • Newspapers, magazines, catalogs, prospectuses

  • Letters, envelopes

  • Forms, office paper

  • Note books, books without covers

  • Folded cardboard boxes, wrapping paper without tape

  • Clean paper bags

  • paper packaging

  • Pizza box without leftovers

Bio or organic waste

Kitchen and garden waste should be disposed of in the brown compost bin. It is not allowed to put plastic bags in the organic waste bin! Compost is made from organic waste. Some cities produce green electricity from the fermentation process at the same time.

Tree and shrub cuttings can, however, be sent to your city's local recycling depot for disposal.

What can you put in the brown bin?
  • Leftover vegetables, salads, and fruits (both raw and cooked)

  • Leftover meat and fish (both raw and cooked)

  • Peels of potato, egg, nut, and fruit

  • Bread and baked goods that are old

  • Ground coffee, coffee filters, and coffee pods

  • Potting soil, flowers and plants (without pots)

  • Trimmings from trees, shrubs, grass, and leaves

  • Newspapers and kitchen paper can also be disposed in bio bins to soak up moisture

Bottles and aluminum packages

Separate packaging for recycling since it can be reused. In order to put the glass bottles in the packaging, it is necessary to empty it of its contents, no rinsing is required. It is important to separate different materials, such as the aluminum lid of the yogurt pot.

What can you put in the glass disposer?
  • Glass bottles. There is no need to remove the lids

  • Containers, plastic packaging, plastic bottles, plastic cups, polystyrene, packaging films (e.g. beverage cartons, plastic packaging)

  • Aluminum foil, aluminum cans, aerosol cans, crown caps, screw caps on bottles and jars, tinplate, tin cans, etc.

Shoes and old clothes

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of old clothes ending up in the residual waste bins. There is simply no point in throwing away old clothes in non recyclable waste bins. At the recycling depots or in the city area, you will find many containers for old clothes.

What can you put in the clothes disposer?
  • Any type of wearable clothes

  • Wearable, clean shoes

  • Gloves and hats

  • Items such as tablecloths and bath towels.

  • Curtains

  • Bed linen

  • Duvets

Furthermore, there are recycling depots in every city where bulky waste, problematic materials, and green waste can be dropped off free of charge.

Fines for not separating waste in Germany

You could end up paying a huge fine if the administration discovers you fail to separate waste and do it regularly. However, the amount of the fine varies from state to state.

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