Bottle recycling machines

Find out what happens to old plastic bottles in Germany!

Imagine the following: It is a hot summer day and you are really thirsty. You buy a bottle of lemonade and drink it all at once. But what do you do with the bottle when it is empty? Do you throw it away? Not when you have bought it in Germany!

In Germany you have to pay a deposit for most of the plastic bottles you buy. This is usually 25 cent per bottle. Once it is empty, you can bring it back to the supermarket and get your deposit back by putting it in a bottle recycling machine.

Bottle recycling machines are usually located near the entrance of supermarkets. If you put your bottle into the round hole, the machine will spin it around to scan the barcode. The bottle then disappears into the machine, which displays the amount of money that you will get back. If you have got more than one bottle, keep putting them in, one after the other, and then press the green button. Next, the machine will print your receipt. Always keep your receipt! The amount at the bottom is the cash you get back from recycling your bottles.

If you want to buy something else in the supermarket afterwards, you can hand this receipt to the cashier and you will get the amount of money deducted from your bill. If you do not want to buy anything new, you can also just hand in the receipt and get your money back.

Did you know …?

  • We now use about 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago.
  • The plastic that bottles are made of in Germany is often thicker than in the UK because after people return their bottles to the supermarket they can be cleaned and then refilled again.
  • Some thinner plastic bottles are crushed or shredded for recycling in the bottle recycling machine.
  • You can take bottles from most ‘big name’ brands back to any supermarket, but thinner bottles usually need to be taken back to a supermarket in the same chain.
  • In some supermarkets, you can choose if you want to donate your deposit to a charity.

Words Ahoy! · Wörter Ahoi!

Deutsch English
die Flasche bottle
der Pfand deposit
der Supermarkt supermarket
wiederverwerten to recycle
das Automat machine


Find out all about plastic shopping bags.