Waste separation works. We show you how.

The ‘Waste separation works’ initiative explains the correct way to separate waste in Germany – how it works and why it is important.

Please note that this page is just an excerpt from our German website, containing the most important information about separating waste in Germany. The full content can be found on the German version by clicking either here or on the language switch in the upper right corner.  

Separating waste correctly: Why is it important?

Packaging can only be recycled when they are disposed of correctly. That’s why you should make sure you separate packaging and residual waste correctly.


Recycling helps protect valuable resources and the climate. Only if you separate and dispose of your residual waste correctly, the raw materials used in the packaging can be recycled. Used packaging should never be disposed of in residual waste, because then it will be burned and may no longer be recycled.


Too much packaging still ends up in the residual waste and therefore lost for the recycling process. Conversely, residual waste that incorrectly ends up in the Yellow Bin, Yellow Bag, paper bin or glass containers makes it more difficult or even impossible to recycle the packaging that has been correctly collected there.

Separation charts: What goes in which bin?

Our separation charts will help you separate your waste correctly.

Here you will find the separation charts available for download in the various languages and for printing:

Tips and tricks for separating waste in Germany

1. Separating packing and residual waste

2. Packaging is collected in different bins depending on their material:

3. Separate different packaging materials.

Different packaging parts should be separated from each other. The individual parts are collected in the designated bin based on material. This is the only way sorting systems can recognise different materials, sort them from each other, and recycle them.

4. Residual waste can only go in the residual-waste bin.

Residual waste should never be disposed of in collection bins intended for used packaging (Yellow Bin/Yellow Bag, paper bin, glass container). This makes it significantly harder – and sometimes even impossible – to sort and recycle the collected packaging.

Collection bins and sites

Some waste needs to be taken to public collection sites. For other waste, shops & businesses have appropriate collection bins where you can dispose of it free of charge.

Correctly disposing of lights

LED lights, energy-saving lights and fairy lights can be taken to collection sites at places such as hardware stores, specialist electrical stores or the local civic-waste collection point. Only lightbulbs and halogen lights can be disposed of in residual-waste bins.

Disposing of single-use masks, single-use gloves and syringes

Used face masks cannot go in the Yellow Bin or Yellow Bag. They could pose a risk to others. Please seal them in a plastic bag and dispose of them in the residual waste. The same applies to single-use gloves. Single-use syringes are another potential hazard – particularly with needles. They are an injury risk to people coming into contact with the waste. So you should always collect syringes in a re-sealable container, such as a glass or plastic bottle, and dispose of them safely in the residual waste. They are definitely not allowed in the Yellow Bin or Yellow Bag.

Empty (rechargeable) batteries

Empty (rechargeable) batteries can be taken to your nearest collection site. Free battery disposal facilities are available at places such as:

  • Retailers and sellers (e.g. collection boxes at chemist shops, supermarkets, specialist electrical stores, petrol stations)
  • Civic-waste collection points, recycling depots
  • Citizens’ centres (Bürgerbüros)
  • Household hazardous waste-collection vehicles
Correctly disposing of electrical appliances

Specialist retailers such as electrical stores take back defective electrical appliances such as mobile phones, batteries and ink cartridges/printer toners. They arrange for these to be properly disposed of. Retailers need to take back smaller electrical appliances, even if no new appliance is bought from them. Larger electrical appliances can be returned free of charge when purchasing a new, equivalent appliance.

Other waste

Bulk rubbish, electrical scrap, textiles, timber, wallpaper or tyres need to be taken to your local recycling depot or civic-waste collection point. Ask your local waste consultant where your nearest civic-waste collection point is.

There may be differences between regions. If you have any questions, your regional waste consultant will be able to assist. Please not that search results will be in German only. Use your post code to find out your consultant’s contact details:

Collecting, sorting, recycling: The dual systems

Germany’s dual systems organise the nationwide collection, sorting and recycling of used sales packaging for industry and trade. Currently, ten dual systems inform consumers about the correct collection of used packaging with their initiative "Mülltrennung wirkt" ("waste separation works"). The dual systems operate based on Germany’s packaging act. The aim of the packaging act is to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging waste on the environment. It also establishes the duties that retailers, manufacturers and consumers need to fulfil in order to achieve this goal: packaging waste must be avoided, reused or handed in for recycling.