If you’re in Germany, it’s essential to know that all beverage containers, whether they are full or empty, must be registered with the Pfand system. This system determines what each bottle is worth and outlines proper recycling procedures.
If you return your emptied bottles to a collection facility registered with the Pfandsystem, you will receive your deposit back plus whatever value the bottles have on the market.
🔶 Related Topic: How Do Germans Dispose and Recycle Trash?
What is Pfand Germany?
Pfand is a system that stands for deposit in German, where you are charged a deposit on top of the price of certain bottles and cans, which is then refunded to you once the bottle is returned empty. This system helps to reduce waste as it encourages people to recycle their bottles and cans.
It is a convenient and easy system for shoppers, as it does not require extra effort.
Types of Pfand in Germany
There are mainly two types of Pfand in Germany.
Multi-Use Bottles (Mehrweg)
These bottles are made up of glass and plastic, and each one has its own set of regulations. Glass bottles can be recycled up to 50 times before they get thrown away, while plastic bottles may only last for around 10-12 recycling.
- Beer Bottles
- Yogurt package
- Soft drink bottles
- Nonalcoholic glass bottles
The deposit for these bottles varies between 8 and 15 cents per bottle, and you can recognize them by the following logos or words such as ‘Pfand-Glas’, ‘Mehrwegflasche’ or ‘Mehrweg-Pfandflasche’.
Single Cans and Bottles (Einweg)
The environmental impact of using standard disposable bottles and cans is more significant than using reusable ones.
However, there are some circumstances in which multi-use bottles may be more environmentally friendly than standard disposable ones – for example, if they are correctly recycled.
Typically they are:
- Plastic bottles
Bottles and cans have a more significant ecological impact than reusable containers because they are less stable plastics that can damage more when recycled.
Seeing these logos or words such as ‘Eineweg’ or ‘Einwegflasche’ can identify them as 25 cents each deposit.
Where to return Pfand bottles in Germany?
Most places where you buy bottles and cans with the Pf and include a return policy. When returning them, they need to be in the same condition as when you purchased them-meaning they cannot be crushed or without a label.
You can return Pfand bottles at the following places:
Beverage stores – Since Pfand is a mandatory government-issued refundable deposit on every bottle and can sell in Germany, it’s always worth getting your money back if you’re unhappy with the product. Bring your Pfand receipt to any beverage stores and get your deposit back – no questions asked.
Supermarkets – The next option is available at supermarkets – installed bottle return machines. Most machines have a bottle return machine where you can deposit your unwanted plastic bottles and cans for recycling. While this is an option, we recommend using the coupons that come with the machines as it will save on future costs.
Kiosks, Büddchen or Spätis – Germany is a country where beer is trendy. You can usually find kiosks selling cold beer at lower prices than restaurants or bars but pricier than supermarkets. It’s essential to be mindful of how much you’re spending and recycle any empties if possible, as Bottle Deposit legislation exists in Germany.
The unofficial Pfandsammler – If you leave bottles with deposits next to trash cans, it is essential to know that this is a common practice in Germany and has become an underground system of deposit collectors. Therefore, you should not be surprised if someone else leaves their bottle nearby- the collector will eventually collect it.
You can return the Pfand bottles in all those shops where you find such stickers or Pfand symbol or if you see a separate Pfand machine.
How can I identify Pfand bottles/cans?
If there is a logo on the label, a significant brewer has likely produced the product. If there is no logo, a smaller brewery probably made the product. In short, the pfand symbol is rarely placed on beer bottles.
Identifying Pfand keywords:
The label will say “Pfand-Glas” if the bottle has a Pfand, and it will not say anything else. If the bottle does not have a Pfand, it will just say “Pfandfrei.”
The Pfand system in Germany is a deposit-based recycling program that encourages people to recycle their plastic bottles. The program offers bottle return stations across the country, and there are usually coupon books for participating stores available at those locations. When you purchase a new bottle, drop the old one off at one of the designated return stations, and receive a refund for your deposit (usually around 10%).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does Pfand cost in Germany?
How much money do you get back from recycling your bottles?
If you recycle your bottles at a local recycling plant, the amount of cash you get back is based on the Pfand (deposit) paid when you bought your bottles. For 500mL soft drink bottles, the deposit is €0.15, and for 1.5L ones, it’s €0.25.
How to get the deposit back in Germany?
You can visit any grocery store or gas station to get your deposit back in Germany. Keep in mind that these locations are most commonly used to return deposits, but there may be other options.
How would you know if you paid a pfand (deposit) in Germany on a bottle or can?
To avoid any confusion, always check your receipt to make sure you paid the correct amount in Pfand (deposit) on a can or bottle of beer.
Do I need to return my pfand bottle/can where I bought it?
What do we do if the recycling machine doesn't work correctly?
Well, there are two possibilities – let’s discuss each of them.
Scenario 1 – Maybe the machine is full.
If you see a machine with a “stop” sign on its display, empty the machine before continuing. If this is not possible or if you are unable to speak to an employee, be sure to request their help before leaving.
Scenario 2 – The machine may have some fault.
Suppose the recycling machine is not broken/defective, but you only have one other device left. In that case, you will be allowed to place the bottles on your conveyor belt, and the cashier will manually count and dispose of each bottle in big cardboard. The total deposit that you make will be deducted from your final receipt.