Being a Part of Germany’s Amazing Recycling Effort

Germany has put a lot of effort into recycling in order to do its part for the environment. This recycling effort has drastically reduced the amount of garbage produced in the country. By understanding some of the basics of the recycling process in Germany, any Germanresident can participate and do their part.

Green Dot System

One part of the recycling program in Germany is the Green Dot system. With this program, companies must pay a fee to put a green dot on the packaging of their products— the more materials used in packaging, the more the company must pay. Because of this, manufacturers produce significantly less garbage than before the system was put into place, hundreds of thousands of tons less.

Sorting Household Garbage

The bulk of the success of the recycling effort in Germany starts at home. There are varying colored bins, or bin lids, in which to put trash and recyclable items. Not every area will deal with the recycling exactly the same, however, the color schemes do not change.


Glass does not go into one of the household bins. Instead, glass is taken to a glass waste bin located throughout the neighborhoods in Germany. These bins have separate sections for clear, green, and brown glass items. Simply bag the glass to be recycled and put it into the corresponding bins.

Yellow Bins – Plastic

The yellow bins are designated for plastic waste. This includes plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic packaging, plastic bottles, packaging materials, aluminum foil, tins, and cans. Some areas may not have yellow bins, in which case plastic waste should be placed into yellow bags and left out for pickup. Also, it is common courtesy to lightly rinse the waste, as it will be sorted and recycled later.

Blue Bins – Paper

The blue bins are designated for paper waste. This includes envelopes, cardboard, books, cartons, newspaper, etc.

Brown Bins – Biological Waste

The brown bins are for the same type of waste that make up compost. The items that go into the brown bins should be biodegradable. These items include egg shells, old bread, food leftovers, coffee grounds and tea leaves, coffee filters and tea bags, vegetable and fruit waste, garden trimmings, soil, and other items such as sawdust, feathers, and certain kitchen towels. If there is no brown bin, then this waste goes into the gray bin.

Gray Bins – Trash

The gray bins are the other catch-all. Most items that are not designated for another bin will go into the gray bins. These items include cigarette butts, wire, photos, gum, broken glass, personal hygiene waste, porcelain, broken mirrors, vacuum cleaner bags, ash, dirt from sweeping, diapers, and other assorted waste.

Hazardous Waste

The remaining trash that goes into the gray bins gets incinerated. If hazardous materials were to be incinerated, they would create toxic gasses. Hazardous materials should be kept separate and taken to the appropriate location to dispose of properly. Each area should inform residents of when and where hazardous waste can be taken. Hazardous waste includes batteries, fluorescent tubing, cans that still contain paint, paint thinners, corrosives, acids, adhesives, chemicals, etc. Batteries can also be disposed of in small containers located in shopping areas.

Large items such as building materials and furniture should be left outside to be collected on a specified date.

There are also facilities, called Recyclinghof, in some cities where individuals can take their recyclables, rather than leaving items in bins and on the curb. This is especially useful when the amount of recycling or garbage accumulated is very high. 

The recycling system in Germany is extensive and impressive. Participation is easy and there is a lot to be said about being a part of something positive for the environment.