Jan 28

Waste Management – How the Germans do it

Germany, have the second highest recycling rate in Europe at 65% (recycling and composting combined).

Germans produced less household waste per head in 2008 than they did in 1997.

In Germany as of 2008 a mere 1% of the household rubbish was landfilled (smashing EU targets set for 2016)

The question is – How do they do it?…..

5 Strategies the Germans are Using to Cut Waste and Eliminate Landfill.

1. Incineration

Incineration or energy from waste is the thermal treatment of waste to reduce its mass and extract energy from the waste in the form of heat. This heat can then be used directly (for example in industrial processes or district heating) or to drive turbines which generate electricity.

Note: In fact 40-50% of ‘energy-from-waste’ plants in Europe won’t meet new EU criteria for energy recovery.

The Germans are big fans of incineration. They have 67 incinerators which is the second highest number of any country in the EU; France have 130


(Energy-from-waste plant next to coal fired power station)

2. Producer Responsibility

It was the Germans who came up with that confusing little emblem the green dot. The green dot signifies the fact that the manufacturer of good within a package has paid a fee towards the cost of recycling/ recovery/ disposal of that package.

The heavier the package, the greater the fee which incentivises manufacturers to ‘lightweight’ packaging as much as possible.

It doesn’t stop there though. There are legal regulations for: end-of life-vehicles, batteries, electric and electronic equipment, waste oil, waste wood, commercial wastes, biodegradable wastes, sewage sludge, and hazardous wastes. (and voluntary obligations for construction and demolition waste and special paper)

Producer responsibility shifts the cost of recycling/ recovery/ disposal from the taxpayer to the consumer.

3. Deposit Refund Schemes

Quite a number of countries across the EU have deposit refund schemes. The idea is straightforward. You pay a deposit on a container, most commonly a glass bottle, and when you return the bottle you get your deposit back. In Germany they run a scheme where a deposit of Euro .25c is paid for bottles of between 0.1 and 3 litres.

4. Landfill Ban

What better way to make sure rubbish isn’t thrown into a landfill than making it illeagal. Well that’s exactly what the Germans did in 2005 and since then they have seen rates of landfilling fall to around 1%. This is all treated waste with organic content <3% or in layman’s terms the ash out of the incinerators. The figure has come down from around 40% in 1995.


5. Pay-As-You-Throw

You have some rubbish to throw away? (for processing in the incinerator). Well you’re going to have to pay for it. Electronic systems are used for identifying and weighing bags of rubbish.

6. (Bonus) Separate Collections

The Germans try to keep materials separate for recycling. For example they make an effort to keep different coloured glass separate, paper and cardboard is kept separate from other recyclables and they have a brown bin to collect organic household waste. That’s another thing – the Germans have a national colour coding scheme for their bins – they must be geniuses :)

German recycle bin

So there you have it – a blueprint for 65% recycling rates and no landfill, courtesy of Germany; thanks Germany.

If you have any comments please feel free to add them. Unless it’s spam, I will approve them :)



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