What to do with all that junk?

The trash separation schemes in Germany are legendary, and have been covered in this blog previously: Garbage in, garbage out. But what do you do when your stuff doesn’t fit in any of those little bins anymore? Take it to the dump! In Germany, they don’t actually have a dump where you can just go deliver your trash – at least, not that I have seen. But they do have a few different types of places for offloading all that junk that piles up in your garage.

1. Paper: In a household with small children, it happens on occasion (after birthdays and holidays, for instance) that we find ourselves overwhelmed with cardboard boxes. The pickup for our paper bin is every 3 weeks – and they will only accept what is in the bin. Rather than cut up all the cardboard to fit in the bin and then hope we don’t drown in newspapers before the next pickup, I often take cardboard boxes to the Wertstoffhof or recycling center. I can drop off as much paper as I want, for free.

2. Electrical items / appliances: These have valuable materials still inside, so don’t throw them in the trash. Again, the nearest recycling center accepts them for free. And if you have seen Office Space, you’ll remember this clip – should you have any hated electrical equipment, you will enjoy throwing it into the dumpster and watching it break apart.

3. Batteries: These can be recycled at any grocery store, or at the Wertstoffhof.

4. Corks: These can be returned to a wine distributor, they usually have collection points.

5. Plastic, styrofoam, packaging, metal: Can all be put into the Gelbe Sack (yellow bag). The yellow bags are free – you can’t actually buy them anywhere. Local shops will provide them to you upon request. They get picked up every 3 weeks or so, for free, and you can put out as many as you want. Unlimited, no-sorting, free recycling!

6. Glass: Should be taken to the glass collection points, where you can throw as much glass in the bin as you want, but they request that you sort it by color. Some areas have glass bins for pickup as well.

7. Junk: the old couch that you need to get rid of, worn-out mattresses, broken furniture, boxes of stuffed animals, and so on. Here there are two options. You can either register with your local trash collection agency to be included in the next Sperrmüll (bulky trash) pickup, and you put the junk out on the curb the night before. Or, if it will fit in your car, you can take it to the Wertstoffhof. Our area gives out 2 cards per year for Sperrmüll and can be used either for the pickup service or for free drop-off at the recycling center. Should you run out of cards, I think it costs about €5 to offload a trunk’s worth of junk.

8. Garden debris: Many areas have a compost bin that gets picked up regularly like trash. If you have done a lot of yardwork and need to get rid of more than your compost bin can hold, you can take it to the local Häckselplatz (literally: shredding place). Individuals can unload their excess grass clippings and branches for free, and businesses have to pay.

9. Trash: If you can’t fit any more trash in your bin (on moving day, for instance) you can buy special black trash bags from the collection service that will get picked up the next time the garbage truck goes through your street. It seems to be a pay-in-advance system, where the extra fee is included in the price of the bag.

Seeing as how storage space is at a minimum in most European housing, keeping things de-cluttered is essential. Hope this list is helpful.

4 thoughts on “What to do with all that junk?

  1. Here in Berlin, the recycling hof is free. And now we have an orange bin that we can put electronics (mall) and old clothes in. Although greenpoint bags aren’t free: we buy yellow trash bags, fill them up and place them in the yellow bin. Mediamarkt and the post office also take batteries and Fielman’s takes eyeglasses (to be donated).
    Always interesting to see how Germany varies from state to state.

    • Clothes – something else I had forgotten! The list of used things to be reused and recycled seems endless… Along with the clothes bins, generally located near the glass recycling bins, I also have found a donation center similar to Goodwill around here, where we can take used-but-still-usable clothes, toys, furniture, etc. The great thing about these places is that they also provide jobs to people re-entering the workforce. I think they exist in most towns, but there isn’t a central agency here that I know of, other than Oxfam (and they aren’t everywhere, nor do they accept everything)

  2. When I was living near Munich, I would once in a while get a flyer in the mailbox and it would announce where one can drop off certain types of junk on a particular day…like paint or other types of chemicals, and this was without a fee. As for the glass recycling bins, one should be careful. The glass recycling bins had a notice saying that dumping glass in the bins is from 8am to 6pm…Monday thru Saturdays. Most of these bins are in residential areas and the neighbors don’t like the sound of glass smashing in the bins.

    • Yes! Thank you – I had forgotten about the Umweltmobil (environment-mobile)! In Stuttgart you can look online and find out where the truck will be, and get rid of all your leftover paints & chemicals – also absolutely free! I chased them down a few times this summer…

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