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Hello Everybody!
Something that is really different for me is all this ecological culture in Germany. I find it great and would like to be more active about it. For example, I have a lot of questions about Pfand, how does it work? where can I take my bottles? How can I know which bottles would give me money in return? do I have to wash them before giving them back? If there is anything I need to know about the whole process I thank you in advance for telling me!
asked Jan 16, 2017 in Home & Living by PaolaA.
Since I seem to be unable to keep it short, here the long version:

"Pfand" means "deposit" in English. For certain types of bottles you automatically pay a deposit ("Pfand") when you buy them, which you get back when you bring back the empty bottle to the shop.

1. Which bottles can I bring back to the shop?

There are "Mehrwegflaschen" (reusable bottles) and "Einwegflaschen" (non-reusable bottles).

"Mehrwegflaschen" you can always bring back to the shop.

"Einwegflaschen" can be with "Pfand" ("pfandpflichtige Einwegflaschen") or without "Pfand" ("pfandfreie Einwegflaschen").

"Pfandpflichtige Einwegflaschen" you can bring back to the shop.

"Pfandfreie Einwegflaschen" you cannot bring back to the shop.

2. How do I find out if a bottle is a "Mehrwegflasche", a "pfandpflichtige Einwegflasche" or a "pfandfreie Einwegflasche"?

If your bottle is a "Mehrwegflasche", you will find the word "Mehrweg", "Mehrwegflasche" or "Pfandflasche" on the label or on the bottle itself. There are also "Mehrweg-" yogurt glasses.

All other bottles are "Einwegflaschen". (The exeption are beer bottles: I don't think I have ever seen a beer bottle with "Mehrweg" written on it, but, as far as I know, all glass beer bottles are "Mehrwegflaschen".)

If your bottle is a "pfandpflichtige Einwegflasche", you will find the "Einweg-Pfand-Logo" on its label: a bottle, a can and a curved arrow. If I'm not mistaken, beverage cans ("Getränkedosen") are also "pfandpflichtig" now and should therefore also have this logo.

All other bottles are "pfandfreie Einwegflaschen", that means you don't pay a deposit ("Pfand") when you buy them and you cannot bring them back to a shop and get a deposit ("Pfand").

3. What do I do with bottles that I cannot bring back to the shop?
There are containers for glass bottles without "Pfand" at public places - usually three seperate ones, for clear, for green and for brown glass (weißglas, Grünglas and Braunglas). Ask your neighbors where they are. (I hope they know, but maybe not everybody does.) Into these public containers you can also throw other glass waste, for example honey or jam glasses.
Do not throw in your glass in the middle of the night, as people living near the container might get upset about the noise. There is even a law that prohibits you from doing it. (Yes, there seems to be a law for everything here.:)) Take a look at the container. It usually has a sign saying that you may not use it before 7 a.m., after 7 p.m., on sundays and on public holidays, or something like that.

Plastic bottles without "Pfand" are waste. Throw them in the yellow waste containers or the waste containers with a yellow lid ("Gelbe Tonne").

Additional information on "Pfand" for experts:

Do you have to wash the bottles before returning them?

If there was a law saying that you have to do it, half of Germany would be in trouble, I think. :) But to avoid rests of fruit juice, or of whatever was in the bottle, to spoil and smell bad, I'd rinse them with a little bit of clear water, especially since you don't know how long the bottles will be stored after you bring them back.

Do you have to return bottles with or without the lid?

With the lid. The exeption are, again, beer bottles, because you cannot skrew the lid back on. The exeption of the exption are beer bottles that are "Bügelflaschen" (see There, the lid is connected with the bottle, and you cannot get it off without breaking the bottle, so you return the bottle with the lid.

Why does a bottle of juice, water, ... suddenly cost more than it said at the label on the shelf?

At the price labels on the super-market shelf you will find (usually in small print) the words "zzgl. Pfand" ("zuzüglich Pfand" - plus deposit) or "inkl. Pfand" ("inklusive Pfand" - includes deposit). If it says "zzgl. Pfand", you have to add the "Pfand" to the price stated on the label, if you want to know what you have to pay at the cash register. But of course, you will get back the "Pfand" when you return the bottle.

If I buy various "Mehrwegflaschen" in a plastic crate, do I have to return that, as well?

If you buy various bottles in a plastic crate, the crate has its extra "Pfand". You can return the bottles with or without the crate and you in large super markets you can also return an empty crate, as far as I know.

Can I bring back any bottle with "Pfand" to any shop?

One thing that should always work is: Bring back the bottle to the shop where you bought it. Since you might not remember for every single bottle where you bought it, here are the general rules. (I cannot guarantee they have not been changed by another law or "Verordnung" by now. This is where I got them from:

1. "Mehrwegflaschen" generally can be brought back to any shop that offers beverages in the same kind of "Mehrwegflaschen". I'm not sure what they mean by "the same kind", but my experience tells me, if your empty bottle has the same form as other bottles sold there, you can return it there.

2. "Pfandpflichtige Einwegflaschen" generally can be brought back to any shop that offers beverages in "pfandpflichtigen Einwegflaschen". (Look for the "Einweg-Pfand-Logo".)

3. Very small shops (the official rule is: shops with less than 200m²), kiosks and gas stations only need to take back bottles of the brand they sell.

... Greetings, Ma
Oh now I see I didnt have any clue! thank you so much :)
Gern geschehen. - You are welome!

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1 Answer

+5 votes
Hi Paola,
Pfand is the name of a currency that you receive at the supermarket, Biergarten or some outdoors parties when you buy some drink or food in some glass or hard plastic containers, or ceramic dishes, for example.
When you ask for your drink or food, you pay its price and also some more money, and in return they give you this coin.
The idea is that you give the container back when you finish and then you'll have the difference you paid before back.
In some places you won't have the coin and it's enough with presenting the container. Instead, in other places you must return this coin as a proof that you are the person who paid.
In the supermarkets you'll find some machines where you can introduce some bottles, tins and so on (they are marked with a logo, sentence or sometimes the cashier will tell it to you) and get the extra money you paid when you bought them. You don't need to wash them. The name of these machines is Pfandstation.
This system is done to encourage people to return containers and so they can re-use them later.
I hope I made myself clear and have a nice day :)
answered Jan 16, 2017 by Elena
thanks! that was helpful!
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