Who doesn't like unsolicited advice by a total stranger?

Living in Germany: Sorting the bin and recycling

Every country and, in fact, every council handles trash differently. This also happens in Germany. We had a few headaches over trash when we moved in and we even were told off by a neighbour because we weren’t using the appropriate bags for our organic waste. I thought I would save you the embarrassment if you just arrived in Germany.

Here, recycling and separating the trash is a serious deal. As I mentioned before, every council manages trash differently so the best way to find out how to proceed with your waste is go to your council’s web page. The waste collector services web will also offer you valuable information. If your German is poor, you can use the Google translator to help you.

Where we live, the waste collector company sends a brochure and a calendar once a year. The calendar tells you when they are picking up the bins for organic (food) waste, plastic, paper and Reste. It’s important to read the brochure or their web to find out what bags are used for each type of waste and what can go on every bin.

For example, we have big yellow plastic bags for plastic that are provided by the council for free. Paper doesn’t need a bag. For organic waste you need to use a special bag, either from paper or plastic-like degradable material. For Reste, we can use any type of bag. Reste is the waste that is not plastic, clean paper or any other waste that can be taken to the recycling centre. While in some councils, you can throw the metal cans with the plastic waste in others they are treated differently. So, check with the waste company or your council.

Regarding the bins, every housing has a number of bins for organic, plastic, paper and Reste. Depending on the number of inhabitants and their needs, the size and number of bins can change. In our building there are 8 flats, shortly after we moved in, another family came in, so our building manager asked for bigger bins. The bins are usually outside hidden in covers. The night before the waste collector company comes to pick up the trash, a neighbour takes the bins out. The bins stay on the street until the next day, when one of the neighbours comes back from work and puts them back in the wheelie bin cover.

This is something you will need to ask your landlord or neighbour, who is in charge of taking the bins out? In our apartment building, one specific neighbour is in charge. In other buildings it might be a shared responsibility so best ask first.

I mentioned before the recycling centre. Where I live we have two types of recycling centre, one for glass and another for miscellaneous waste. The glass recycling points are spread over my council, near parks or main roads. You have quite a collection of bins to throw the glass containers and bottles you can’t return at the supermarket. Glass is classified by colour. Read the signs on the bins and separate accordingly. In Spain, all glass went on the same bin. I took some getting used to, to separate it by colours. The second type of recycling centres are bigger and managed by workers who, depending on the type of was you have, will direct you to different containers. They will, most likely, review what type of waste you have. They might charge you depending on the material. Here, you can throw wood, waste from gardening, wall paper, etc.

As you can see, this can be an overwhelming task at first. Above all if in your country of origin, waste is not separated. Most Germans understand that this can be a bit confusing, above all because it varies from a council to another (perhaps where you live plastic and only plastic goes on the yellow bag, but where you work, plastic goes directly in the bin).

My advice to you is read your council and waste collector company’s web. Then, ask your neighbour if he can explain you how the sorting works in your building. They will probably appreciate you asking.

Good luck!



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