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Waste Bins and What Belongs Where:

Waste Management

Waste management, like a lot of things in Germany, relies on a system. A lot of effort has gone into determining what should go where — recycling bin, paper waste bin, regular waste bin, bottle banks etc. However, this system varies from city to city. For example, in some it is ok to place paper waste in the recycling bin, in others it is not.

An overview of what goes where is provided below. If you aren't sure, then check the 2 websites below. If what you are throwing away isn't listed there and it isn't toxic, then place it in the regular waste bin.

If you live in the city of Karlsruhe,  a website listing the ABCs of waste and where it belongs is available here. The listing is alphabetical and in German.

If you live outside the city, but still in the Landkreis Karlsruhe, then the website for you is here.


Recycling is taken very seriously in Germany and although it's not compulsory a recent survey shows that 90% of Germans sort their recycling.

To the newcomer it can seem a bit challenging - but here's an overview...

There are two key things to look for on your recycling — Grüne Punkt and Pfand.

Grüne Punkt (Green Dot) — this means that the manufacturer has paid towards the costs of recycling the container and you can put these items in the recycling bin. You can learn more about Grüne Punkt here.

Pfand — this is a deposit paid when purchasing the container – usually plastic or glass bottles. This deposit will be refunded when you return the bottle (or the case) to the store. There are handy machines in supermarkets to make this easier or it can be done over the counter in smaller shops.

The Recycling System in Karlsruhe

Glass and Bottles — recycle these through “bottle banks” which you will see everywhere. These are for white (clear), brown and green glass. Do not put light bulbs, sheet glass, crystal or high-tech glass (e.g. Pyrex) in these bins! If properly recycled and sorted, new glass can contain between 40 and 90 % old glass. Be sure to return bottles with a deposit to the supermarket rather than the "bottle bank."

Bio (biodegradable or compostable rubbish) — Collection of bio depends upon where you live. You might have a specific bio bin for compostables but if not, and if you don’t want to compost it yourself, then it should go in with general household rubbish. Bio bins take kitchen leftovers including food and tea bags as well as garden rubbish.

General Recycling Bin — (color of bins vary) cans, milk cartons and other things of composite materials, polystyrene, aluminum, etc. as well as empty aerosol cans. This kind of recycling will all be hand sorted.

Paper Bin (black with blue lid) — Starting in January 2015, paper and cardboard go in the paper bins. If you like, you can also recycle paper during “paper drives” or take your paper to the local recycling center (see below). The "paper drives" are set up by local sports clubs or kindergartens to raise money. Look for flyers in your mailbox (Altpapiersammlung), in which case you just need to place your newspapers, magazines, cardboard boxes etc. in bundles on the curb.

Household Waste Bin — as well as anything you can’t recycle, these bins take nappies or diapers, tissues, other personal hygiene items, extremely dirty paper, etc. The contents of these bins will be incinerated.

Hazardous Waste (fluorescent tubes, batteries and acids, cans of paint still containing paint, thinners, adhesives, corrosives, disinfectants, insecticides). Either there will be organized collections of Hazardous Waste or you will have to bring it to a disposal site. For a list of dates and times when a mobile hazardous waste collector is in your neighborhood, click here.

Batteries can also be disposed of in small bins at many supermarkets and drugstores (Drogerie).

Find a recycling center (Wertstoffhoff) for disposal of bulky items! Here you will find skips or dumpsters for furniture, batteries, electrical items, paper and cardboard, plastic, cans, glass, wood and garden waste. Staff will help you find the proper bin. Some items will cost you money to get rid off — like tires — but you will have a clear conscience knowing they are being properly disposed.

Bulky rubbish (Sperrmüll) (often furniture) is left out overnight for collection the following day. You will have info on collection dates provided when you register at your Town Hall. New starting January 2013 - in certain Karlsruhe neighborhoods, you must call and you will be given a date when to place your rubbish on the curb. Other neighborhoods have set dates twice a year. You can also pick up little odds and ends when you pass them on the street. No one will be surprised!

Large household items like refrigerators and stoves can be picked up curbside up to twice a year at no cost. You must call 115 ahead of time to schedule a time or register online.

Old clothing, textiles and shoes can be placed in plastic bags and then taken to the recycling bins found on many street corners (Altkleidercontainer). Many are managed by the German Red Cross (DRK) and other non-profits. The clothes are sorted and find their way to the needy. You can also try selling good, gently-worn clothes to the second-hand shops in the area.

Old mobile phones contain valuable metals and should not be disposed of in regular household waste bins. They can be traded-in at some phone stores for a store voucher or donated to charities.

You should be given information about rubbish and recycling collections from your landlord or from the Rathaus when you register in your new community.