In Germany, there is a bottle return system called the Pfand system. When you purchase certain products, you pay a deposit (Pfand) for the bottle. When you return the empty bottle, you get your deposit back. This encourages people to return their empty bottles. The empty bottles are then reused or recycled. At first, it's hard to know which bottles and cans have a Pfand, and which don't.

How to identify the Pfand bottles?

You can recognize Pfand bottles by looking at their labels, usually near the barcode. You have to look closely. Some bottles use logos and some useful keywords.

Where to return bottles in Germany?

Supermarket: look for bottle return machines. They are either near the entrance, or at the back of the store. The machine will print a coupon that can be exchanged at the cash register.

Liquor stores: if you have a lot of bottles to return, this is the right place. They will rarely accept anything but beer bottles.

Spätis: Spätis will accept the bottles they sold you. They are not a good place to return a lot of bottles.

A general rule of thumb: If a place sells Pfand bottles, it also accepts bottle returns. However, please be aware that stores do not need to accept bottle types they don't sell. Even if a bottle has a deposit, the store can still refuse it.


Common bottles with a deposit

These bottles have a deposit. You can return them to any store or supermarket that sells them, and you will get some money back.

• Beer bottles
• Soft drink bottles (glass or plastic)
• Aluminum cans
• Water bottles (glass or plastic)
• All multiple-use (Mehrweg) containers

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