Recycling Medication in Germany

Talking to some expats, we came across the all-time favorite recycling program in Germany. Among cars and many other things, we also recycle our medication. Since this was taken in surprise, it might be worth sharing.

Old and expired medication is called Sondermüll (toxic waste) and needs to be handled accordingly.

Keeping the environment and future generations in mind, it is important to keep old and expired medication out of the regular trash. Please remove the package and papers to be disposed in the Altpapier (recycled paper pin), but drop off your unwanted medication at your local pharmacy.

From there, expired medication will be picked up or delivered to the toxic waste department. Not-yet expired medication will get recycled and donated to charities.

Injection needles can also be dropped off at the pharmacy.

What is so toxic about this kind of waste? This waste requires special attention – if not handled properly, it can cause damage to the environment and our health. In most households, the amount of medication ending up in the regular trash is benign, but collectively, the damage is big.

These toxic elements can enter the food chain, whereby harming our vegetation and animal life. So please separate and deposit waste in its proper place.

Some packets carry symbols, such as the one with a dead tree or a dead fish (unfortunately, most of us have lost awareness of these signs)

Whenever you see a black symbol on an orange background, be alerted to its toxic content.

Most other medical products come with der grüne Punkt symbol, another reminder to recycle.

So, just in time for spring cleaning – clear out your medical cabinet and drop off your recyclable items at your local pharmacy. Your German phrase for the drop-off: Ich möchte das zurückgeben.

Glass Recycling in Germany

Occasionally, I can hear the crashing and scrunching sound of dumped glass when the recycling truck stops in our neighborhood.

In general, we get to sort our glass in three different color containers – white, green, and brown. And as good Germans, many of us follow this rule. For years, we had been instructed to separate the caps and lids from the glass (caps and lids are meant for the yellow plastic trash container).

Now I have noticed this fairly new instruction:

New regulation for glass recycling

Bitte Flaschen und Gläser mit Verschluss einwerfen = Please deposit bottles and jars with tops.

In the beginning, it took us months to remember to take the caps off at home. At times,  one could observe people unscrewing bottles and jars in front of the container. Now we are supposed to throw the whole thing in. Does this make sense?

In my former home state of Bavaria, recycling is even more complex. Beer bottle caps are meant for the aluminum trash bin, jar jam lids go into the plastic trash.

On the other hand, some newcomers to Germany might not realize that e.g. yogurt jars and some soda cans are sold with a deposit. Please check the cans and jars for its deposit symbol (somewhere near the bar code). I know of people who have literally thrown their money into the bin, over the years. I have done it myself… It took me about four weeks to notice the deposit symbol on a soda can (American brand).

Any bottle/jar/plastic bottle with the Grüner Punkt symbol goes into the trash, again sorted by plastic and glass.

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