Rubbish
It is illegal to throw things away in Germany.

Well OK, that may be exagerating a little but, it often seems to be the case. Some years ago, the German government carried out a study into the future of rubbish disposal in Germany. They concluded that, unless they changed their practice, they would soon run out of landfill sites and have to start new rubbish tips in the countryside or even in their beloved forests.

Well, that was not on so the whole country instituted a new master plan for rubbish disposal based on extensive recycling.

The scheme varies slightly across the country but essentially, the basic deal is that rubbish is separated out into different types before disposal and then it goes to recycling.

Everywhere has big plastic skips for recycling paper and you should use these as indicated. These are not to be used for paper milk cartons and some may not be used for cardboard. If the ones in your city are labeled keine Kartonage then you must take your cardboard boxes to a recycling depot and not put them in the bin. Does this matter? Well, if you decide that it is OK to use then for a box from Amazon then I suggest that you remove the address label first. A three thousand mark fine is not a lot of fun! Actually, that leads me on to one comment about these recycling schemes.

I have seen men trawling through the skips and taking away pieces of paper that they presumably deemed to be interesting! I use a shredder for anything that could be linked back to me. Of course, that is not secure but, I take the approach of shredding say, one sheet of paper with my name and address on it and a dozen or so other sheets with nothing important. I then save it up and drop a huge sackful into the skip once a month. I figure that it would thus take at least one man day to assemble a single A4 page which would have a 1 in ten chance of being something personal rather than an advert for water purification tablets. That clearly puts my paper beyond the resources of an amateur dumpster dipper. If the authorities decide that they are sufficiently interested then, while it will not deter them, they would most likely use other means of investigation as well.

Reuseable packaging is used for many drinks. Glass bottles for beer, milk and other drinks plus plastic bottles for many softdrinks. You will see labels such as Mehrwegflasche (More-way-bottle) and Pfand Zuruck (Deposit Back) on these bottles.

Other packaging materials must be recyclable and will carry the Grune Punkt logo of two little green arrows in a circle.

Glass that is not for re-use will be disposed of in bottle banks in the streets. Some take any glass, others require that white glass (weissglass) be separated from coloured glass (buntglass) and yet others require green and brown (grun and braun) to go in separate boxes.

In some cities a yellow sack scheme operates for packaging materials. You will be issued with a supply of sacks when you register in the city and then, once or twice a month, a truck will come around and collect these sacks from the street. You might find that your apartment building has a designated area for these and the bin men will collect the sacks from there. Older buildings normally have no such area and you must just pile everything up in the street on the apropriate day.

The yellow sack scheme in Ulm is used for pretty well all packaging materials but the one in Paderborn is not used for metal cans and the like. They must be taking to recycling skips in the street adjacent to the paper and bottle recycling points. You will just have to discover which scheme applies in your area.

The alternative to a yellow sack scheme is an extension of the recycling skips. In Munich, there are skips for paper, glass (three colours separately), metal and other packaging materials.

If that all seems a bit much, then you should see that really keen schemes. Some friends of mine actually have to separate plastic waste into different types and dispose of it in different recycling boxes! All plastic waste is labelled with a code indicating polythene, polystyrene etc and they have a large selection of different recycling skips.

Often, you will also see separate containers by the bottle banks for batteries. Not car batteries but anything from watch batteries up to torch batteries.

No we are not finished yet. Food waste is known as Biomull and you will find that there are separate bins for this. These may be green or brown depending on the city. You do have the option of using a compost heap in the garden and then you can pay a lower rubbish tax or Mullgebuhr.

That of course leaves the rest of your rubbish which is known as the Restmull! This is normally disposed of in black bins which are emptied on a less frequent cycle than the Biomull or yellow sack collections. Restmull includes things such as broken china and condoms. (Oh dear, you havn't been flushing them down the toilet have you?) Restmull does not include old paint or televisions. You have to ask the council specially if you want to displose of such items!

In some places there will be a recycling yard where you can take things that do not fit into the general scheme. In other places, you will have to ask for things to be taken away. Either way, do not be surprised if you are asked to pay for this service!

Recycling in the shops.
Many shops will ask you if you want the packaging materials. As they are a hassle to throw away, most people opt to leave the packaging in the shop where this is possible. Indeed, many supermarkets have a small recycling area by the door. People stop there on the way to the car and dispose of the plastic wrapping around various items.
Hours of use
The recycling bins in the street are all marked with the times between which they may be used. Generally, they are no go areas on Sundays and at night. They may also be forbidden at lunchtimes and on Saturday afternoons! This I find worst of all. When I was living in Ulm, I spent 18 months commuting to Munich each day and, as a result, I was never actually in Ulm at a time when it was legal for me to take glass to the bottle bank! What was I supposed to do? Chuck it all in the river?
Breaking the rules.
I know two people who have had to pay large fines for disobeying the rubbish laws in Germany. Chuck a bottle away on a Sunday morning and somebody will make a note of the building that you live in or your car registration. Be warned.
Links
The Kippenpfandt is here A humourous view of one of Germany's rubbush issues
Home See what else is on this site
Germany Living and working in Germany
Countries Choose a country