Do you know what goes into your residual waste bin in Germany?


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Separating your own trash has been part of everyday life in Germany for many decades. But not everyone knows what actually belongs in the residual waste bin.

Correct waste separation, whether in the yellow bin or in the organic bin, is a good thing, as it is important and of great importance to protect the environment. Ultimately, proper separation makes it much easier for recyclers to recycle or dispose of the garbage, as environmentally conscious and legal should be. But although waste separation has been part of everyday life in Germany for a long time, it is not always that clear. The distinction between what goes into a residual waste bin and what goes into other bins is not always clear cut.

The colors of the garbage cans in Germany at a glance

Bin colorUsed for?
Black Almost the only constant in Germany when it comes to waste bin color. The black garbage can is for the residual waste.
No other containers are black.
Blue With the exception of two federal states, every household in Germany has blue bins. These are intended for paper waste.
But they are also often used for cardboard and packaging material.
BrownOnly present in around two thirds of Germans. Brown stands for organic waste.
The other 30% in Germany use a composter.
YellowPlastic belongs in the yellow bin. Or in the yellow bag?
Half of all people in Germany have a ton in front of their door, the rest use yellow bags.


What really belongs in the residual waste bin?

residual waste bin

If you separate properly, you won’t have much left for the residual waste bin. Because the black bin is expressly only intended for that garbage that cannot be recycled.

Residual waste bin – You are allowed to throw in the following:

  • Ashes (cold)
  • Animal droppings
  • Litter from animal cages or the litter box (if the cat litter is not recyclable)
  • Hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Heavily soiled paper, such as handkerchiefs and scraps of wallpaper
  • Heavily soiled packaging
  • Vacuum cleaner bags
  • Dried out felt-tip pens and ballpoint pen refills
  • Cigarette butts
  • Old photos
  • Broken glass and porcelain items (in small quantities)
  • Leftover leather or rags (in small quantities)
  • Broken toys

If you are not sure, you should always follow the rule of thumb: Everything that cannot be recycled belongs in the residual waste bin. This also applies, for example, to plastics that cannot be recycled or that are not marked with a green dot.

Note: Paint may only be put in the black bin when it has completely dried up. Otherwise, it would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste at a recycling center.

Incandescent lamps and halogen lamps may also be disposed of in the residual waste. However, only if they are not energy-saving lamps. These must be disposed of separately.

Tip: Styrofoam only partially belongs in the black bin, because according to the new guidelines, these materials either belong in the recycling bin or the yellow sack. Larger quantities are to be disposed of at the recycling collection points. If it is pure packaging waste, this material can be returned to the shop where the actual product was purchased.

What is not allowed in the normal trash bin?

residual waste bin

It is of course very tempting to downgrade the residual waste bin as a “girl for everything”. Often you don’t see at first glance whether and how something can be recycled or where potential dangers lurk because the garbage may be polluted. Often, however, it is also pure convenience, because the waste separation system has in principle created a separate bin or disposal option for each type of waste.

You are not allowed to dump the following into a normal trash bin!

• Construction and demolition waste

• Old electrical appliances

• Kitchen waste

• Garden waste

• Paper and cardboard

• pollutants

• Bulky waste

• Packaging waste

• Batteries

• Energy saving lamps

• Glass

NOTE: If you are not sure, you can ask your municipality what you can dispose of where and how. Because many municipalities have different requirements with regard to the black bin and residual waste.

Can dishes or porcelain be thrown in the residual waste bin?

Ceramics and crockery can only be disposed of in the residual waste in small quantities – for example a broken plate or a broken cup. Larger quantities belong to the recycling center.

residual waste bin

Are diapers and hygiene articles allowed in the black bin?

Yes, hygiene items such as tampons, wet wipes, cosmetic tissues or cotton swabs can be disposed of in the residual waste bin. The same goes for diapers and animal litter. 


Separating the garbage properly is not only a question of environmentally conscious thinking and trading, but can also have a financial aspect. Because it costs money to dispose of the waste by simply throwing everything in the black bin.

  • Firstly, because then the garbage collector has to dispose of a lot more rubbish.
  • Second, because it can get really expensive when things end up in the residual waste bin that don’t belong there. Either because they are actually recyclable or because they are polluted and should be classified as hazardous waste.

In order to always be on the safe side, it is therefore advisable to find out in advance which individual guidelines your own municipality makes, what really belongs in the waste bin and what does not. Because not everything belongs in the residual waste bin.

Michelle Halterman
Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.


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