Garbage Separation and Recycling

In Germany, garbage separation and recycling are taken very seriously.

Deposit for Beverages

In Germany, you are required to pay a deposit (Pfand) on returnable glass and plastic bottles (Mehrwegverpackungen); when you return an empty bottle, you receive your deposit money back and the bottle is refilled and sold again. In order to motivate consumers to return recyclable items, you also have to pay a deposit for many disposable/one-time-use bottles (Einwegflaschen) and cans. Depending on the type of beverage and filling capacity, you may or may not have to pay a deposit. To determine whether or not a deposit is required, keep an eye out for the Deutsche Pfandsystem GmbH logo. If you find this emblem on a bottle or can, you will have to pay a deposit of up to €0.25.

Empty bottles and cans can always be returned at the store where you bought them as well as at bigger shops selling similar disposable bottles or cans. Take care not to damage the bottles and cans and be sure not to remove the label containing the barcode, otherwise you might have problems returning your bottles!

Sorting and Recycling Waste

The rules for recycling are imposed by local authorities, so the system can differ from town to town. In Ulm/Neu-Ulm, the following rules apply:

  • Gelber Sack and Gelbe Tonne for potentially recyclable rubbish
    For all "light" plastic and metal packing materials, such as yoghurt cups, plastic bags, styrofoam, milk and juice packs, cans, spray cans, etc. that are not mentioned somewhere else. In most cases, they carry the symbol "Der Grüne Punkt". Make sure everything is completely empty. You can get yellow (plastic) bags at the recycling stations or at the Bürgerbüro in Ulm or Neu-Ulm.
  • Glass (glass containers in your neighbourhood)
    For clean glass bottles (the ones that are not returnable for a deposit), but not light bulbs, mirrors, window panes. Remove the lid and sort by glass color (clear, green and brown). Blue glass belongs in the container for green glass.
  • Paper and cardboards (blue bin)
    For all kinds of paper, e.g. newspapers, magazines, cardboard and packaging material. Clean paper only – no coated paper (from milk or juice packs) or tissues.
  • Biotonne (brown bin, Biomüll)
    For biodegradable waste like food waste, coffee filters, tea bags, plants, etc.
  • Restmüll (black bin, Restmüll)
    For all other kinds of waste. But keep in mind that there are relatively high fees for the disposal of Restmüll, whereas all the other kind of waste (except Biomüll) can be disposed free of charge.
  • Recyclinghöfe for bulky or hazardous waste and electronic devices
    There are recycling stations (Recyclinghof) all over the city, where you may deposit all kinds of hazardous waste (e.g. batteries, paints, oil), bulky waste (e.g. furniture, carpets, wood, window panes) and also old electronic devices. You may also bring all the types of waste listed above (except Biomüll). Recycling stations can be best reached by car.

Ask your roommates how the garbage separation works in your dorm or your shared flat.

More information on recycling (including lists of what kind of trash belongs in which bin) and public recycling stations/containers can be found on the websites of the local waste management companies in Ulm and Neu-Ulm.