All for the environment: Separating rubbish correctly & recycling waste

The correct disposal of your lighting is not just an important topic when it comes to protecting the environment. Recycling itself is of immense significance to climate protection. Sustainable concepts are already being implemented in the manufacture of products that can be recycled at a later stage. In addition to this, correct waste separation is important in order that materials can be reused. It is really easy to make a contribution to this sustainable cycle, by separating your rubbish correctly. The importance of this is evident in the volume of waste generated per capita over the last 50 years:

But which rubbish belongs in which bin? Often, disposal is not quite as simple as you might think. In this article you will find out what options you have if your wish is to support the reusable resources cycle.

Avoid rather than recycle

Successful waste management begins with the avoidance of waste in the first place. This means that no, or only little waste is produced. Doing away with product packaging means that less waste has to be disposed of. As a result, waste avoidance thus makes a direct contribution to environmental protection. In many cases, the raw materials that were previously required for packaging can be saved. This reduces the consumption of energy, water, and resources. Transport costs are also eradicated.

Here are three simple suggestions as to how you can avoid rubbish in your everyday life:

  • Don't carry fresh fruit and vegetables in a plastic bag, instead using a washable fabric bag.

  • Find out whether there are packaging-free stores in your area. There, you can have the food packed directly into boxes, which you bring with you, thus avoiding some of the rubbish.

  • Repair small appliances and other broken items in the home, rather than immediately purchasing new products.

  • Instead of aluminium foil, you can use reusable beeswax cloths. These keep food fresh and have an antibacterial effect.

Actively support recycling

Waste cannot always be avoided altogether, but in many cases, effective recycling is possible. The disposal companies rely on environmentally-conscious waste recycling, in order to recycle plastics, for example. In comparison to plastics that are manufactured from petroleum, recycled plastic results in a saving of around one tonne of CO2. However, at present there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to plastic recycling. This is, first and foremost, on account of the fact that many private households do not separate their waste correctly.

Sort and correctly separate your waste at home – for a smooth recycling process

In order to prepare your household waste for recycling, your rubbish should be as clean as possible. Here, it is worth properly separating the waste prior to throwing it in the bin. Heavily contaminated paper is no longer suitable for the production of recycled paper and should therefore not end up in the paper recycling. And glass in amongst plastic waste can destroy other raw materials.

A sorting plant does not work as efficiently as people do. Therefore, it is so important that we all play our part by separating waste correctly.

The yellow bin, or the yellow bag

In your yellow bin or yellow bag, you can dispose of packaging made of:

  • Plastic

  • Aluminium

  • Tin plate

  • Composite materials (e.g. drinks cartons)

It is best to dispose of the individual components of packaging separately, for example, removing aluminium lids from plastic cups. Objects such as children's toys, saucepans, or toothbrushes do not belong in the yellow bin, but rather in the bin for recyclables. In some council areas, the recyclables bin has replaced the yellow bin. You should therefore find out how waste separation is handled in your local area. If necessary, you can also bring your recyclables to a recycling centre for disposal.

It actually makes no difference whether you use the yellow bag, or the yellow bin.

Recyclables bin

Some council areas do not use the yellow bin, and instead use a valuables bin. These can also be used to dispose of packaging (see above). They can also be used to dispose of objects made from the following materials:

  • Plastic

  • Metal

  • Composite materials

Bin for waste paper

Paper can be almost 100% recycled. This is good for the environment, since the recycling of paper has a negative impact on forest stand. It is therefore all the more important that you use the paper bin for your waste paper. The bin, which is often blue or black, is suitable for the disposal of the following waste:

  • Paper

  • Cardboard

  • Paperboard

To avoid mistakes, below is a list of the things that do not belong in the waste paper bin:

  • Baking paper

  • Beverage and pizza boxes

  • Contaminated paper

  • Paper tissues

  • Kitchen towels and paper napkins

  • Wallpaper

  • Photos

New things can be created from your waste paper. In particular, your old paper waste ends up in recycled paper, newspaper, and cardboard boxes.

Organic waste bin

Organic waste is an important resource for biogas production. Organic waste is also suitable as a source of compost. This means it is no longer necessary to cultivate raw materials such as corn in large quantities.

The following organic waste goes in your organic waste bin:

  • Garden waste

  • Kitchen waste such as coffee filters and teabags (without paper or metal)

  • Organic material such as feathers, hair, small animal litter

The following items should not be disposed of in your organic waste bin:

  • Treated wood

  • Ash

  • Hygiene products

  • Cat litter

  • Milk

Organic waste works great in your own compost heap. This way garden waste in your own garden will form part of a natural cycle, as it decomposes naturally during composting. However, the organic waste bin is worthwhile, as not all kitchen waste is suitable for self-composting. Food waste should under no circumstances end up on the compost heap.

It is important that you regularly make use of the compost produced from your organic waste. Otherwise it can start to putrefy, which releases climate-damaging methane. It is therefore important that you allow the compost sufficient ventilation. As a general rule, you should not store the compost for longer than one year.


Glass can be almost 100 percent recycled, without resulting in a loss of quality. However, for this to apply, it must be sorted according to colour, and disposed of in the correct collection containers for brown, green, and white glass. Blue or yellow glass should be disposed of in the container for green glass.

The glass container is suitable for:

  • Glass bottles

  • Non-returnable bottles

These items do not belong in the glass container:

  • Window glass

  • Mirrors

  • Drinking glasses, leaded glass, and crystal

  • Incandescent bulbs

  • Porcelain and ceramic

Bin for residual waste

The combustion of residual waste releases energy that can be thermally recycled. This method is very economical. Otherwise, it is normally only metals that can be recovered from the residual waste.

The following are disposed of in the bin for residual waste:

  • Non-recyclable materials with no problematic ingredients

  • Ash

  • Textiles and leather

  • Vacuum bags

  • Porcelain

  • Waste wood

  • Screws and dowels

  • Hygiene products

  • Printer cartridges

  • Empty pens

  • Adhesive tape

By separating your residual waste correctly, you are making a contribution to the generation of electricity and heat as a result of its combustion. The leftover mineral slag produced from the combustion of residual waste is recycled for the construction of roads, for example.

Problem materials with regard to separate waste disposal

Some waste does not belong in your household waste, but does not belong in other waste bins either. Certain harmful substances should be brought to your local recycling centre, or to another collection point.

Electrical appliances should not be disposed of in your grey or yellow bin either. Smaller devices that are broken can be taken back to the electrical retailer or supermarket where you purchased them. You may also be able to give back larger electrical appliances – simply ask if this is possible.

Likewise, for batteries and broken lighting, there are various drop-off points. Small used batteries can often be disposed of at the supermarket, while some stores also offer free returns.

Expired medications are also problematic. Under no circumstances should these be flushed down the toilet, as the ingredients should not be released directly into the environment. Drugs can be returned to the pharmacy, while collection points for hazardous materials also increasingly accept these products. Alternatively, you can dispose of medications in the residual waste bin, and put the packaging in the yellow bin.

Typical problem materials for separate waste disposal:

  • Electrical devices/Electrical scrap

  • Waste oil

  • Batteries

  • Lighting

  • Bulky waste

Waste separation tables, for a better overview

Separating waste correctly is something that many people find difficult. This is why around 30 percent of waste ends up in the wrong bin. This results in high additional costs, as the incorrectly disposed of waste must be sorted. With a Waste Separation Table you will find it easier to correctly, and therefore efficiently, separate your waste.

You will find the necessary information from the authorities responsible for waste disposal. Search for the phrase, ""Correct Rubbish Separation PDF"" and avoid making the typical errors in future, by making use of a waste separation table. This will allow you to efficiently prepare your waste for appropriate recycling.

Side note: Differentiating between thermal and material recycling

When it comes to waste, people often talk about both thermal and material recycling. So what could they be referring to?

Thermal recycling, also known as raw material recycling, uses the chemically decomposed waste as substitute raw material with which to generate heat. As a result of its combustion, it is thus at least possible to generate heat. Examples are synthesis gas from plastic combustion, and methanol production from organic waste.

In the case of material recycling, secondary raw materials are produced from the waste materials. This is what is generally being referred to when we use the term recycling. Examples are paper recyclates, plastic, and glass granulate. The Closed-Loop Waste Management Act (Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz) rates material recycling more highly than energy or thermal recycling. As such, this is the area of recycling to which you can easily make a contribution yourself.

Conclusion: waste separation is a community responsibility

Are you still always unsure as to what can be recycled as waste paper, and whether or not your hygiene products can be disposed of in the organic waste? Our waste separation table can help. This is available to download here, to use as a checklist. The table offers a good starting point to help you separate waste correctly in future. On many types of packaging you will find corresponding instructions that show you which bin you should use in order to dispose of the waste correctly.

Thanks to recycling, Germany consumes fewer raw materials – it is therefore clear that correct waste separation protects the environment. An increasing number of products are based on environmentally-friendly processes, as industry is increasingly taking subsequent reuse into consideration. Sustainability models such as Cradle to Cradle reduce waste and avoid intense pollution on account of dumping or combustion.

However, in order for sustainable concepts to work, everyone must do their part. Forward-thinking ideas repeatedly come up against the limitations of reality and those resulting from political framework conditions. It is therefore all the more important that we prioritise making a positive environmental impact and dispose of waste in a responsible manner.

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