Gauss-Telegraph: How To… Understand the German deposit system

Gauss-Telegraph: How To… Understand the German deposit system

by Tina Metschke

If you come to Germany as an exchange student, there are certainly many things that are different from what you would find in your home country.

Today I would like to explain the German deposit system to you.
In the supermarket, you have probably seen the vending machines in which people put their drink containers. But why?

Because in our country environmental protection is anchored in the constitution, there is not only a special recycling system for garbage, but we also try to reuse or recycle certain things. We do that with most beverage containers, like glass bottles, plastic bottles and beverage cans.

In order to achieve that the population returns the bottles, an additional amount is charged at the cash desk, the so-called PFAND.

FYI: Did you know that the inventor of this system comes from Braunschweig?

We distinguish between two types of deposit.


© Mehrweg mach mit

The one-way bottle deposit

This includes the very light, crushable PET bottles and aluminum beverage cans. These are recycled. Their raw materials are melted down and used to make new products.

At the cash desk you will be charged an additional amount of 0,25€ at the advertised price when buying a water bottle, lemonade or beer can.


The reuseable bottle deposit

It consists of plastic or glass bottles and is calculated differently depending on the type of bottle.

  • Beer bottles with cap: 0,08€.
  • Beer bottles with swing top : 0,15€.
  • Glass bottles with screw cap for water and lemonades: 0,15€.
  • Reusable plastic bottles for water and lemonades: 0,15€.

The yogurt manufacturers Andechser, Landliebe and Söbbeke also charge 0.15€ for their screw top glasses.

Unfortunately, not all bottles have a deposit. Often juice bottles are sold without  PFAND.

If you are not sure, look for one of these signs on the back of the bottle.

© Raimond Spekking

To protect our environment, I recommend that you always buy your drinks in reusable containers. Because, as the name suggests, these containers are reused several times and waste is avoided. Even if disposable packaging is recycled, too much plastic packaging is still produced and only part of it can be recycled.


Return of deposit

Bottle back – Money back !

The easiest way is to bring the bottle back to the supermarket where you bought it. If this is not possible, remember the simple rule of thumb :

  • “Cheap” supermarkets like “Lidl”, “Aldi” or “Penny” only accept  non-refillable bottles (one-way bottle no glass bottles).
  • “Expensive” markets like “Rewe”, “Edeka”, or wholesale markets with beverage departments like “Kaufland”, “Markthalle” or “Hit” usually accept all types of bottles.

Mostly there are vending machines in the entrance area where you can throw the bottles in. If you have bought a beer crate, you can put it on a conveyor belt in the lower area, and the beer crate itself also has a deposit. Usually about 1,50€.
When you are finished you will get a receipt. Some vending machines have a donation button if you want to give the money to a social institution for the homeless, otherwise the voucher will be deducted from your purchases at the cash desk or paid out directly.

There are also beverage markets, which accept all types of bottles.


© Pfand gehört daneben

“Deposit belongs beside it”

Maybe you’ve seen the sticker on a waste bin in the city center, or even discovered the deposit ring in one of the larger German cities. Since there are many people who do not want to retrieve the deposit themselves, they carelessly throw their bottles into the trash or worse, into the woods.

If it happens that you are on the road and there is no supermarket with a deposit machine near you, do not throw the deposit away carelessly. By placing the bottle next to the trash can, you donate its value to those in need. To prevent indigent people from injuring themselves, place the bottle in the deposit ring or on the floor.

More information here.

In order for environmental protection to work, everyone must participate! The less PET bottles we use, the more we can contribute to reduce industrial CO2 emissions!

If you still have questions, please contact us!