Home Living in Germany House & Home Pfand: Germany’s recycling system
Last update on May 14, 2020

Even little tasks can seem difficult when you’ve just moved abroad and not used to doing things a certain way. Germany’s bottle recycling system, Pfand, is one such thing.

When you’re a solo expat in Germany, even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming and difficult, especially when it differs from home. Recycling bottles was one of these scary tasks for me when I first moved here. Therefore, I thought I would write a step-by-step guide to take the fear out of recycling your bottles.

When you do your weekly shopping, gather up all the recyclable plastic and glass bottles and soft drink cans you collected. It doesn’t matter where you have bought your bottle or can; they can all be recycled at your local supermarket.

Look for the odd-looking machine below. You’ll usually find it near the entrance to the supermarket. Some places place them inside the actual supermarket.

Put your bottles and cans into the round hole at the top, bottom first. For a faster bottle recycling experience, make sure the barcode is facing upwards.

Put in all your bottles, one after the other, until your bag is empty. Then press the green button next to the other circular hole. This will print your receipt.

Keep your receipt! The amount at the bottom is the cash you get back from recycling your bottles. This is based on the Pfand (deposit) you paid when you bought your bottles. Most 500mL bottles of soft drink carry a €0.15 deposit, whilst the 1.5L ones carry a €0.25 deposit.

When going through the checkout to purchase your groceries, hand this receipt to the cashier. The cashier deducts this amount from your bill. If you don’t have anything to buy, you can just hand your receipt to the cashier and get the money back.

Recycling bottles in Germany is a unique process. Hopefully this guide takes all the fear and uncertainty out of your first recycling experience and you’ll be able to do it as if you’ve been recycling bottles this way for years.