Germans take trash VERY seriously. One of the first things we were told when we moved here is that we better pay attention to what we are throwing away and where we put it, or we could get ourselves into trouble.
Waste in Germany ist sorted in different kinds of material in order to recycle paper, glas or plastic. Because of this, waste disposal of non-recyclable rubbish is relatively expensive for people whereas the cost of recyclable waste is much cheaper, sometimes even free.
Kinds of Waste
Now I’ve mentioned what a lot of the trash collections are, but let me spell it all out a bit more clearly:
- Biomüll — This is usually the stuff you would otherwise compost like vegetable peelings, overripe fruit, etc. Generally, people will flush things like leftovers (assuming they are in small pieces) because garbage disposals are not all that common here.
- Altpapier — Newspapers, magazines, junk mail, torn up boxes, paper packaging, etc. In some places, you can put an additional box or two of paper next to your trash can and they will take it. Or you can have the lid propped open with all the paper inside practically overflowing. But in other areas, this is totally not allowed and they will leave a tacky note in your trash can telling you not to pull a stunt like that again.
- Gelbesäcke/Gelbetonne — Literally translated as the “yellow sack” or “yellow ton”, this is for plastic and styrofoam packaging…and not much else.
- Restmüll — The rest of the trash that doesn’t fit into any of these categories, but isn’t batteries, electronics, toxic chemicals, glass.
- Sperrmüll — Special pickup, usually once in the spring & once in the fall, for big stuff like furniture, household stuff (nothing electronic), toys and so on. There are special cards that allow you to order “Sperrmüll” at a special point of time at “Enni“. More information about this you will find here: https://www.enni.de/stadt-service/onlinedienste/sperrgutabholung.html
Have to know
People in Germany are known for their environmentally friendly behaviour: they separate waste and try to recycle many things. Litter isn’t just dropped or left on the ground. This is true in towns and in the country, for example in parks, next to roads or in the woods. In public places people take their waste with them and throw it into the next waste bin, even if it means carrying their waste until they reach the waste bin. There are usually waste bins in public spaces, such as train stations, bus stops, parks, etc.
Many kinds of bottles have a deposit of between 8 Cents and 25 Cents on them. This deposit is refunded when you return the bottle. You can return bottles to any supermarket which sells them, not only the supermarket where you bought them. This is done to help the environment by recycling and re-using bottles and so producing less waste.