Germans take recycling very seriously. I’ve heard of fights erupting among neighbors in apartment houses over improper sorting. To help you with figuring out what goes where, I’ve compiled this little guide.
First, there can be up to four containers at your residence or in public places. There’s the paper and cardboard container, that is denoted by either green or blue, depending on where you live. Then there is the plastic and compound materials container, denoted by yellow. There is the brown biological waste container, and the gray household waste container.
In addition to these containers, you will find containers in your neighborhood for glass, shoe, and clothing collection. At the entrances of home improvement, electronics, and some grocery stores, you will find used battery collection boxes. You may need to store hazardous materials for some time until your city or town announces that it will be collecting these items. And finally, there are scheduled pickups for large items, like old sofas and the like. In large cities, you will generally be notified of the dates for pickups, but in smaller towns you will likely need to call and schedule a pickup yourself (in our town, we get one free pickup a year, more than one and we need to pay for them to come by).
What’s acceptable can vary slightly from place to place, as can the color of the bins. I looked over the instructions for several cities, and listed items that were accepted by all. Some cities accept things that other cities don’t, so to find out for sure what you can and can’t recycle, and what bin it goes in if what I have here doesn’t seem to match up with your bins, check the official website of the city or district you live in.
What goes in the Grüne/Blaue Tonne (green or blue can) for paper and cardboard recycling?
- Paper and cardboard packaging marked with or without a Grüne Punkt (Green Dot), for example, cartons for salt, laundry detergent)
- uncoated frozen food packaging
- newspapers, magazines, junk-mail
- notebooks, writing pads, writing paper, envelopes, computer paper
- packing paper, corrugated cardboard
- books without covers, catalogs
What does not go in the Grüne/Blaue Tonne (green or blue can) for paper and cardboard recycling?
- soiled paper
- drink cartons, for example, Tetra-Paks
- pizza boxes with aluminum coating
- coffee bags (paper bonded with aluminum or plastic
- carbon paper, photo paper
- used paper towels, Kleenex, or napkins
- waxed, sandwich or parchment paper
- any other coated or bonded paper
What goes in the Gelbe Tonne (yellow can) for plastic and compound materials recycling?
- plastic food containers, like for yogurt or margarine
- plastic bottles, for example, body wash, shampoo, sunscreen, laundry detergent, juice bottles
- plastic wrap, plastic bags (like from inside the cereal box, or shopping bags)
- vacuum-pack bags, for example, coffee bags
- Styrofoam packaging, also for meats, fruits and vegetables
- nets that citrus and potatoes come in
- aluminum foil, lids, trays
- paper or plastic plates, plastic utensils
- fast food mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup packets
- tin drink and food cans
- aerosol cans (hairspray, deodorant, etc.)
- tubes for toothpaste, stain remover, tomato paste, etc.
- plastic bottle screw-tops
- milk and juice cartons
- pharmaceutical blister-packs
What doesn’t go in the Gelbe Tonne (yellow can) for plastic and compound materials recycling?
- vegetable and fruit cartons
- paper and cardboard
- video and audio cassettes
- diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons
- plastic, metal or Styrofoam items that aren’t packaging, like toys, bowls, lids, laundry baskets, window boxes, plant pots, etc.
- packaging that contained hazardous material, like spray paint cans
- electronic devices
What goes in the BIO Tonne (brown can) for biological waste?
- garden clippings, weeds, grass cuttings
- foliage and plants, including houseplants
- feathers and hair from pets
- paper towels
- fruit and vegetable peels and leftovers, including citrus fruits
- coffee grounds and filters
- tea and tea bags
- egg shells
- bread and cheese
- spoiled food
- nut shells
- organic pet litter, like hay, straw, wood shavings
- untreated wood
- Christmas trees (no tinsel)
What does not go in the BIO Tonne (brown can) for biological waste?
- mineral-based pet litter
- meat and sausage leftovers, cooked and prepared food, flour and milk products (in some places, these can go in)
- treated wood
- Kleenex, sanitary pads, diapers, tampons
- other treated items, vacuum cleaner bags, street sweepings
What goes in the Altglastonne (old glass containers)?
- non-returnable glass jars and bottles
- marmalade, jam, jelly, preserve jars
- packaging made from glass
- blue glass (goes in the green glass container)
What does not go in the Altglastonne (old glass containers)?
- ceramic and porcelain
- mirror, window and plate glass
- ceramic stove tops
- auto windshields
- fireproof glass
So, are you a recycling practitioner, guru, novice? Do you have anything to add?