What belongs in the yellow bin or in the yellow plastic bags in Germany?


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The term yellow bin or yellow plastic bags should really be known to everyone in Germany. But it is not uncommon for this to be a real hodgepodge of all kinds of household waste that do not belong there.

In addition, the yellow bin should not be confused with the recycling bin. Of course, recyclable materials also belong in the yellow bag, but not all of them. That’s why there are separate recycling bins. But what actually belongs in the yellow bin and what doesn’t? Some things can also belong in the residual waste or in the yellow bin.

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 yellow bin?

yellow bin

To get to the point: All packaging that is not made of paper or glass belongs in the yellow bin. The technical term for this is “light packaging” and is a generic term for anything made of metal, plastic, natural materials or composites and protecting food and other products.

When it comes to packaging made of metal, it is primarily aluminum and tinplate that are meant; when it comes to composite materials, it is, for example, beverage cartons. Not all lightweight packaging has the green point, because the dual system, which includes the yellow bin or the yellow sack, also includes other non-returnable plastic packaging.

That can in the yellow sack or the yellow bin:

  • Menu trays for ready meals
  • Milk bags and cartons
  • Tetra packs or beverage cartons
  • Ice cream, sausage and cheese packaging made of plastic
  • Food cans
  • Cosmetic packaging made of plastic
  • Bottle caps
  • Soup bags
  • Plastic cups, such as margarine or yoghurt cups, including lids
  • Aluminum foils
  • Mustard, ketchup and mayo packs
  • Washing-up liquid, shampoo, shower gel and liquid soap bottles
  • Animal feed cans
  • Toothpaste tubes
  • Styrofoam used in small quantities and as pure packaging
  • Films, such as shopping bags, wrapping films, freezer bags
  • Foams, such as fruit and vegetable bowls

Note: It is not necessary to wash the packaging out in the yellow bin before disposing of it. Because doing without it helps to create additional wastewater that at some point has to be treated again, which is time-consuming and costly.

Whether a yellow bin or a yellow sack is available for the waste disposal of the light packaging depends on the respective municipality.

Tip: Incidentally, the waste sorting machines recognize the light packaging from the yellow bin better and classify it correctly if the aluminum lid has already been removed from the yogurt cup in advance. This means that waste sorting in industrial plants is faster and better.

What is not allowed in the yellow bin?

yellow bin

Probably the most common mistake that is made when correctly separating waste in the yellow bin is that everything made of plastic is simply thrown into the yellow sack. But plastic is not just plastic. In addition, not every plastic part is used as packaging. A baby bottle is made of plastic, but it is not lightweight packaging that belongs in the yellow bin.

But there is far more that definitely does not belong in the yellow bin. These include:

  • Toys
  • Cd´s, DVD´s, cassettes, floppy disks
  • Electrical appliances
  • Leftover food and groceries
  • Disposable razors
  • Lighters
  • Glass
  • Plastic dishes
  • Wood wool
  • Hygiene products
  • Transparent sleeves
  • Ballpoint pens and felt-tip pens
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Styrofoam, which was used as an insulating material
  • Remnants of wallpaper and carpet
  • Diapers
  • Toothbrushes
  • Cigarette butts and ashes
  • Aerosol cans and other pressurized gas containers
  • Hairbrushes
  • Coat hangers
  • Paper with a coating of plastic lacquer or foil
  • Detergent bottles
  • Paints and varnishes
  • Packaging that may contain residual toxins

Note: It is particularly common for packaging that still contains leftover food to end up in the yellow sack. However, these do not belong there. Only when the leftovers have been disposed of can the packaging be put in the yellow bin. Incidentally, this also applies to other packaging. Correct waste separation is here: first empty, then into the yellow bag.

Incidentally, it is very good to know that packaging that is not used in the food sector is generally not allowed to end up in the yellow bag.

Tip: In order to fish out packaging that may contain residual toxins or aerosols or that are under pressure, it is advisable to look for a hazard symbol. If this is on the packaging, then it clearly does not belong in the yellow bin.


yellow bin

Not everything that is made of plastic or composite materials ultimately belongs in the yellow bin. Here you can take the rule of thumb to heart: only what serves as packaging belongs in the yellow sack or in the dual system. Then it also works with the correct waste separation. The plastics and composites from the yellow bins are very valuable raw materials that can be recycled after optimal separation and thus conserve resources. In addition, this can reduce CO2 emissions, which is a very important aspect in times of climate change.

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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