How to Recycle/Take Out the Trash in 23 Easy Steps

Taking out the trash in Germany is no simple tasks. There are multiple trash cans, a millions rules and strict schedules. If recycling was an Olympic sport, Germany would medal every time!

Getting used to the German trash schedule has been a daunting task for us. It all started when we initially rented our new home. The relocation agent made sure to go over the trash schedule and she even provided a handout for us to read1. The handout also had a website2 that provided more detail about what item goes into each of the 4 trash bins. Yes that is a 4! Let’s break it down…

  1. Bio Bin (brown bin)3– this is where all the food scraps go. In addition you can add paper towels, tissues, tea bags and coffee grinds. Basically, stuff that can decompose in a giant compost heap somewhere out there. Yard clippings/ waste can also go in here.
  2. Plastic bin (yellow bin)4– This is where the majority of your food containers go, Ziploc bags, plastic wraps, candy wrappers, aluminum cans, tin cans, etc.
  3. Paper bin (blue bin)5– newspapers, printer paper, cardboard, etc.
  4. Regular trash (grey bin)6– basically anything that doesn’t belong in the other bins with a few exceptions.

This seems reasonable until you really start thinking about everything. As the relocation agent was reviewing this all with us I had a question.

 

Me: “So what about the milk carton? It has a plastic spout but the rest of the container would qualify as paper.”

Relocation Agent: “If you are a good German you will cut out the spout.”

I laughed…..she didn’t.

I am not a good German.

 

Our first stop was then the store because we had to get some kind of organization going for all of us. We purchased this trash can7:

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For some reason the blue bin is green but oh well. We also have a trashcan for the “regular” trash.

Ok we are ready to go. Let’s try to recycle this lovely tea box:

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Lets say you just used the last tea bag. After you have made your tea, you are going to drop that tea bag into the brown bio bin. For the box, you need to remove the outer plastic wrap and place it in the yellow bin. The box itself will go into the blue bin. We are getting the hang of this! Now lets try these:

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Ha! Trick question! The answer for these items is none of the above. The blue plastic bottle in the middle probably made you think yellow bin. You can technically put the bottle in this bin but then you would be missing out on the refund. For some plastic and glass bottles you can return these items to the store8 and get a little money back. So we have a separate container9 to store those items that need to head back to the grocery store. Now the other 2 bottles in the picture are glass and are not eligible for the refund at the store. So where do they go? They need to be recycled at one of the glass recycling containers that are positioned around town that look like this:

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Notice that there is a bin for white glass (or clear)10, green glass11 and brown glass12. Yet again we have to have a separate container13 to store these items until we make it down to the glass recycling center. Now before you run off to recycle your glass you have to remember a few rules. First, you can only recycle glass when it is not quiet hours (remember those from a few blogs back). Which means, not before 7am14, not between the hours of 1pm-3pm15 and not after 8pm16. Also, no recycling on Sundays17 and German Holidays18.

Now that we’ve managed to separate everything into its designated bin, we now have to get it out to the curb in time for its pick up. Here we go…

The Bio bin is picked up every Monday19 except December- March20 in which it is picked up every other Monday. It is picked up every week during the warmer months due to the smell (not joking).

The regular trash is picked up every other Monday21. It is the same Monday as the bio bin is picked up during the Winter months or the week opposite the Plastic (yellow bin) pick up.

The plastic bin (yellow bin) is picked up every other week on a Wednesday22. This is the alternating week to the regular trash pick up as mentioned before.

The paper bin (blue bin) is picked up once a Month23, usually the 3rd week of the month. It is always a week that the yellow bin is being picked up but the paper bin is picked up on Tuesday and the yellow bin will be picked up the following day on a Wednesday.

Of course all of this is thrown out the window when it is a German Holiday.

Needless to say, we have a print out of the trash pick up days stuck to our fridge because I can’t remember the day of the week most of the time let alone what trash needs to be out.

Ok we have made it! And that is how you take out the trash/recycling in Germany in 23 easy steps!

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(Another way to recycle the bio)