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Waste separation - How to separate waste correctly

How does actually work Waste separation sensible? Organic waste, recyclables, residual waste... There are so many different types of waste that can be generated when you're not looking for the Zero Waste Lifestyle lives. In this article I would like to give you an overview of the correct waste separation, so that you also in the future your Separate waste correctly can. Let's go!

Here is another short Table of contents about the article:

  1. Reasons
  2. Recyclables
  3. Glass waste
  4. Waste paper
  5. Organic waste
  6. Residual waste
  7. Hazardous waste
  8. Summary
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Why waste separation is so important

Waste separation - Statistics Germany garbage
This overview of waste in Germany was compiled by https://www.hausfrage.de created


We have been recycling our waste in Germany since the 80s. But why do we actually have to separate our waste properly for this? The answer is clear: The Plastics recycling is a very costly and resource-intensive process for conserving partially limited raw materials from nature. To minimize the effort required to recycle plastic and the like, we carefully separate our household waste into different garbage cans, which I'll explain in more detail in a moment. If we were to forego waste separation, all raw materials would be treated the same and ultimately incinerated. In addition, hazardous materials from medicines and batteries would be treated the same as non-hazardous waste. This would not harm our nature any less than the Plastic waste in the environment.

That's why it's simply tremendously important that we reuse preserved raw materials as much as possible.

We therefore divide our waste into the following Categories one:

  • Recyclables (yellow garbage can, recycled as much as possible)
  • Paper (blue garbage can, will be recycled)
  • Glass (glass container (white, brown, green), is recycled)
  • Organic waste (brown or green garbage can, will be composted)
  • Residual waste (also called household waste, black/grey garbage can, is incinerated)
  • Hazardous waste (is incinerated or disposed of)

Well-sorted waste is also good for your wallet. This is because waste disposal companies pass on higher costs to the consumer due to the increased effort required to sort the waste. But what exactly belongs in which garbage can? Here's the answer step by step.

What belongs in the recycling garbage can (yellow garbage can)

Waste separation - separate waste correctly (garbage cans)


Basically, you can say that protective packaging made of metal, plastic and composite material dispose of in the yellow garbage can must. The packaging should be empty, but rinsing is not necessary. Here are some examples of the things you should dispose of in the yellow bag or the yellow garbage can. In parentheses I put you in each case the plastic-free alternative, so that you in the future Avoid plastic waste can:

  • Yogurt cup (Alternative: yogurt from the jar)
  • Cheese packaging (Alternative: Have cheese placed in containers you bring with you).
  • Tetra-Paks (Alternative: milk from the glass bottle or Make macadamia milk yourself)
  • Shampoo / shower gel bottles (Alternative: Natural soap in a bar)
  • Nets of potatoes, oranges & co. (Alternative: Unpacked in the Fruit and vegetable net buy)
  • Packaging films e.g. from toilet paper (Alternative: butt spray or unpacked toilet paper buy)
  • Styrofoam parts from packaging (Alternative: buy second hand goods)
  • Cans & Crown Corks (Alternative: drinks from the glass or from brought along Drinking bottle drink
  • Empty toothpaste tube (Alternative: Make toothpaste yourself)

This list can go on forever. As consumers, we don't have to rinse yogurt pots, for example, but they should be empty. Also, we must not put them inside each other, because all plastic parts have to be recycled individually and the effort would be increased unnecessarily.

Waste separation in the glass containers

Separate waste correctly - waste separation in garbage cans and containers
Glass is disposed of by color in containers - However, there are exceptions


If you want to separate your garbage properly, you need to Throw glass waste into the color matching green, brown or white container. But even with glass, caution is advised - because not all glass is the same.

Questions & Answers about glass waste separation

It is easier to clarify common questions about waste glass disposal and discuss exceptions than to list the glasses that go into the glass containers. Following are the most important tips and hints for the disposal of glass of any kind.

Which glasses belong in the bottle banks?

If you want to separate your waste properly and do something good for the environment, you should dispose of ordinary beverage bottles (deposit-free), preserving jars or even cosmetic jars in the bottle banks.

What about blue or other different colored glass bottles?

Of course, there is also blue, yellow or red glass. In this case, you don't have to despair in front of the glass containers, but can simply throw this glass into the green container, since green glass is compatible with the other colors. With white glass, on the other hand, other colors would cause contamination.

Do labels & closures cause problems?

Egg labels are removed from glasses in the recycling process, but caps should be removed in the household and usually disposed of in the yellow bag. Corks from wine bottles can be disposed of in the residual waste or recycled into coasters for kitchen pots, for example.

What does not belong in the glass containers?

In addition to bottle caps, the following items also do not belong in bottle banks:

  • Ceramics & Porcelain (belong in the residual waste)
  • Window writing (also belong in the residual waste)
  • Light bulbs (normal light bulbs belong in the residual waste, energy-saving bulbs in the hazardous waste).
  • Christmas balls (belong in the residual waste instead)
  • Drinking glasses (due to a different composition, drinking glasses belong in the residual waste).

Do I need to rinse the jars before disposal?

As with plastic yogurt pots and the like, you don't have to rinse out the jars completely. On the contrary: Save the Water and save the environment, because enough water is used in the recycling process.

Separating waste paper - What goes into the blue garbage can?

Paper is made from the natural resource wood. Therefore, we should handle it carefully and also separate paper waste properly. There is a blue garbage can for the disposal of waste paper. But what all belongs to the waste paper?

  • Cardboard (shipping) boxes, as well as paper packaging
  • Envelopes without window (Window belongs in the recycling garbage can)
  • Newspapers, books and magazines
  • Corrugated board
  • Paper documents
  • Egg cartons
  • Paper bags
  • Glossy paper
  • Wrapping paper

If the green dot is printed on the packaging, you can dispose of it in any case in the waste paper. However, the green dot has not been a relevant factor for many years and does not have to be printed on the packaging. But if it is printed, you can be sure that the waste belongs in the blue garbage can.

What must not be disposed of in the waste paper?

Of course, there are also many things that are mistaken for paper waste and are mistakenly disposed of in the blue garbage can. If you want to separate your waste properly, you should rather dispose of the following things differently:

  • Used napkins, kitchen towels & paper plates (residual waste)
  • Wax paper (residual waste)
  • Wallpapers (residual waste)
  • Thermal paper receipt (residual waste)
  • Tetra-Paks (recyclables)
  • Glued posters (residual waste)
  • Stickers & Post-It's (residual waste)

So not all paper is the same. However, this information should help you to separate your waste properly in the future.

Organic waste - What belongs in the brown & green garbage can?

Separate organic waste correctly - What belongs in the green garbage can?
Separating organic waste correctly - What actually belongs in the green/brown garbage can?


You can dispose of plant and animal waste in the organic waste garbage can (green or brown garbage can). Balcony plants, eggshells and fruit and vegetable waste, for example. It is important to know that you should not collect organic waste in a plastic bag or in a garbage bag made of bioplastics. Either way, these bags have to be sorted out at great expense in the recycling process. The alternative: Either you compost in the garden or in the kitchenUse a paper garbage bag or fold your own garbage bag from newspaper.

For proper waste separation, dispose of the following items in your organic waste, for example:

  • Coffee & Tea Filter
  • Leftovers (fish, sausage, cheese, bread, etc.)
  • Eggshells
  • Balcony plants
  • Fruit and vegetable waste
  • Paper bags/newspaper of the organic waste
  • Dairy products
  • Lawn clippings
  • Bushes/branches

What does not belong in the organic waste?

As with all other types of disposal, there are of course many exceptions to organic waste that do not belong in the green/brown garbage can. Here are a few examples and in parentheses the variant with which you do the waste separation correctly:

  • Cigarette butts (residual waste - see also Cigarette butts in the environment)
  • Disposable diapers (Residual waste - for avoidance see the article Diaper free - diapering without diapers)
  • Cardboard/Paper (waste paper)
  • Wood products (residual waste)
  • Dog excrement (residual waste due to pathogens, etc.)
  • Oil & paint residues (hazardous waste)
  • Metal (larger parts to the scrap yard, small parts to the residual waste).
  • Plastic (recyclables)

This list could also go on indefinitely. But once you've worked through this article, you'll know exactly what belongs where and how to separate your trash properly.

Residual waste - What belongs in the gray/black garbage can?

Residual waste is waste that cannot be reused or recycled. In other words, everything that is not disposed of in the yellow, green and blue garbage cans, in the glass container or in hazardous waste. As a rule, the gray or black garbage can accounts for the largest share of our total waste. To help you dispose of your garbage properly in the near future, I'll give you some examples of things that belong in the residual waste:

  • Tableware & Ceramics
  • Pads, Tampons & Diapers
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Incandescent lamps (Energy saving lamps are hazardous waste)
  • Toys of any kind
  • Window glass
  • Ball pen
  • Drinking glasses
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Chewing gums
  • Floppy disks (CD's are hazardous waste)
  • Lighters

And what does not belong in the residual waste?

The term "residual waste" is very general, which is why the right things don't always end up in the black garbage can. Here I would like to list some things that do not belong in the residual waste, but still end up there more often:

What all belongs to hazardous waste?

Separate waste correctly - waste separation Batteries are hazardous waste
Batteries do not belong in the yellow bag, but in the hazardous waste!


What is actually hazardous waste and how can I separate this waste properly? Hazardous waste is things that contain harmful substances such as mercury and must therefore be disposed of separately. Hazardous waste is, for example, explosive, pathogenic, hazardous to health, hazardous to water or hazardous to air. When separating waste, the following items, for example, count as hazardous waste:

  • Fluorescent tubes (drop off at an electronics retailer or a local recycling center)
  • Nail polish bottles (Nail polish remover/ turpentine, shake, fill toxic liquid into a jam jar, clean jar into glass container, lid into plastic waste, take jam jar to a hazardous waste collection point).
  • Electric waste (see Dispose of electrical appliances correctly)
  • Acids (waste disposal company)
  • Batteries (supermarkets, gas stations, electronics retailers...)
  • Cork (Disposal at recycling centers or at the NABU cork campaign)
  • CD's (Plastic cover to recyclable waste, CD's collected to recycling centers)

Separate garbage properly - Is simple, right?

Once you have learned a little about it, waste separation is really uncomplicated and you have learned something for life. Because only very few people know how to separate waste properly. As unfortunate as that is, a lot of educational work still needs to be done, especially on the subject of waste separation. It is also important to raise awareness of the Environmental protection in school and explain there how to separate your garbage properly. But it is even better not to let the garbage arise in the first place and to look after the Zero Waste Lifestyle to live. Of course, garbage cannot be avoided completely, but then we should at least dispose of it in the right garbage can.

Do you have any questions, suggestions or your own experiences with waste separation that you would like to share with us? Then I look forward to your comment under this article.

Stay clean,

PS.: Be sure to also read my article about the Plastic production through. As a small thank you for your visit to CareElite I would like to give you give here my e-book "Get rid of the garbage" as a gift. Have fun!

Waste separation - How to separate waste properly
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Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

13 thoughts on “Mülltrennung – Wie du Müll richtig trennst”

  1. Thank you for the post on waste separation. My brother needs to plan for food waste disposal at his cafe and buy a grease trap. Good to know that residual and hazardous waste are mostly incinerated.

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