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Getting back your penny - Bottle bill system!

Have you ever considered getting your money back when buying soft drinks or bottled water? Well, in Germany, it's exactly what happens! To combat waste and pollution, the country has implemented the Pfand System, also known as the Bottle Bill method.


The issue of beverage bottle pollution is a grave concern for many countries worldwide. Many people buy drinks, consume them, and carelessly throw away the plastic or glass bottles. This leads to a massive accumulation of non-biodegradable waste, which harms the environment in various ways.


However, in Germany, they have implemented a remarkable solution called the Pfand System, which has successfully changed the behavior of many people towards the environment. The word „Pfand“ means deposit, and the idea behind the system is that when you buy a drink, you pay a small fee for the bottle. Once you finish the beverage, you can return the bottle to any shop that sells that drink, and you get your deposit back.

Recyclable Plastic bottle
Bottles with a pfand symbol© Sifat


  1. It reduces waste, as people are likelier to return the bottles instead of throwing them away.
  2. The bottles are recycled, which saves energy and resources. It is more likely to create energy and resource efficiency for a sustainable environment.
  3. It encourages companies to produce more sustainable packaging. 

This recycling initiative that has been implemented in response to the growing concern about the negative effects of waste on the environment. Consumers are encourged to return empty beverage containers, such as plastic bottles and aluminum cans, to designated collection points in exchange for a small refundable deposit.

It is successful in changing people’s behavior and reducing waste. In addition to promoting recycling, the system has also helped to reduce littering and landfill waste. By incentivizing people to dispose of their waste responsibly, the Pfand System has created a culture of conscientiousness around waste disposal and played a vital role in protecting the environment.

Overall, the Pfand System is an excellent example of how small changes in behavior can have a significant impact on the environment. With its success, it is clear that even the smallest of changes can make a difference in efforts to protect the planet.

You will see this kind of Pfand machines in every super stores in Germany. 

Pfand machine
Depositing your bottles and having your penny back!© Sifat


If you correctly deposit the bottle or can, you will receive a refund of between 0.08 euros and 0.25 euros, regardless of how much you paid for the bottle. Just keep in mind that the refund amount may vary depending on whether the bottle is single-use or multiple-use.

Look for the special symbol on your plastic bottle, glass, or can. If you see it, you can get your money back when you return the bottle after using it. In Germany, people collect labeled bottles and take them to a nearby Pfand station once they have enough. These Pfand stations are really cool machines that collect and recycle the bottles and then calculate the total refund amount based on the number of bottles returned. So, don’t forget to recycle and get your hard-earned money back! No worries!

Einweg or Single use bottles© Sifat
Cash receipt.
This is the receipt that comes out of the machine and is ultimately redeemed when paying at the checkout.© Sifat

If you’re in Germany, you’ll notice that almost every supermarket has a Pfand station. These stations are designed to encourage environmentally friendly practices by allowing customers to return their used bottles. In exchange, they receive a cash receipt ( you can see it in the image) that can be used for shopping. As an international student, you might feel a bit self-conscious about lugging around a bag of empty bottles in public, but there’s nothing to fear. Germans are highly committed to protecting their environment and are always happy to see others following suit. Throwing away beverage bottles anywhere other than designated recycling bins is strictly prohibited, which is why you won’t see any waste or used bottles littering the streets. So, go ahead and do your part – your efforts will be appreciated, and the planet will thank you for it!

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Here in South Australia we hav had a bottle and can deposit system for around 50 years, it started at 5c per container, but in recent years has been increased to 10c, now I believe all Australian States and Territory's have in the last few years adopted similar deposit schemes.

written by Gary created on

Hi Gary, This is very interesting, thank you. It's only small steps, but it helps the environment - we are convinced of that. Best wishes, Your Study in Germany-Team 👋🇩🇪

written by Redaktion created on

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The "Kleine Uli" (Little Ulrich Street) is just 100 metres from the University Square of the University of Halle and invites you to stroll, relax, chat and celebrate with a large number of cafés, bars and restaurants.© MLU/Fotograf