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Recycling in Germany - guide to trash sorting

Recycling in Germany can be quite tricky to understand even for those of you who have been living here for a while now. Germany is at the very top of European countries that are mindful about the environment, and recycling rates reflect that. Unfortunately, we ourselves have experienced that sufficient information on recycling categories is not always widely available in English.

At SPIC AND SPAN. we believe that being environmentally conscious is as important as keeping your house nice and tidy. We did some research in order to make the rules behind recycling in Germany clear and understandable. If you still are lost after reading the article, you can order our one-time cleaning service and an experienced cleaner will come and help sort out the trash from your house.


Plastic bins usually have the word "Wertstoffe" written on them (which literally means recyclable materials.) Contrary to what you might think, they are not only designated for plastic: cans, aluminum, milk, and juice cartons also belong there. However, make sure not to put returnable plastic bottles inside. The deposit for them is either 15 (hard plastic bottles) or 25 cents (those made of soft plastic and returnable beverage cans.)

It’s a great idea to consider cutting down on the consumption of plastic. Unlike glass and aluminum, recycling of plastic is way less efficient, and thus it’s better to avoid it whenever it’s possible. The majority of chain supermarkets have made environmentally conscious steps and no longer offer plastic bags at their stores. Always remember to carry a reusable shopping bag with you and try not to buy products with a lot of unnecessary wrapping and plastic packaging.

Recycling in Germany - guide to trash sorting
You can reduce the amount of plastic trash by making some easy decisions - for instance, you can cut down on plastic straws


Glass bins are typically sorted by color: white, green, and brown glass is collected separately. You can use them to dispose of wine bottles, all sorts of jars, oil bottles, and so on.

Remember that when you buy water or beer in glass bottles, you’re charged a deposit (Pfand.) Those bottles don't belong in the glass bin, and you should bring them back to the store.

Recycling in Germany - guide to trash sorting
Reusing glass jars as storage containers is even more environmentally friendly than recycling!


Cardboard boxes, newspapers, and paper bags belong in the paper bin. Make sure no parts of plastic packaging and foil get mixed up with it. If the paper is really dirty, please throw it in the household waste bin since it can’t be recycled anymore.

Recycling in Germany - guide to trash sorting
Paper as a recycling category is really easy to identify and sort

Household waste

This category includes cigarette butts, used tissued, textiles, and other types of household waste. However, if the place where you live doesn't have a separate organic waste bin, you can also throw it away with everything else. Otherwise, teabags, coffee filters, peels, food leftover, and other items that you would normally throw in a compost pile should be put in a bio-waste bin.

In addition, clothing should rather be thrown into special donation boxes. That way wearable items can be still reused and the rest will be recycled according to clothing disposal regulations.

Other items and Sperrmüll (specific to recycling in Germany)

There are quite a few categories of items that should be disposed of in a specific way. Never throw used batteries or light bulbs in recycling bins since it's dangerous. A lot of supermarkets and stores in your area will have special bins where they can be safely discarded.

Old furniture, carpets, and household appliances belong in the category of Sperrmüll and need to be picked up separately by a special service.


A clean home makes your life easier and more pleasant. One of the ways in which you can keep your place organized and be more friendly to the environment is recycling properly. Recycling in Germany might seem tricky at first, but with enough practice, it will become intuitive. Check our blog regularly to find more cleaning and housekeeping recommendations.

Anna Kurczyńska


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