What can go in the organic waste bin and what can’t!

What can go in the organic waste bin and what can’t?

The Closed Substance Cycle and Waste Management Act regulates the separation and recycling of organic waste, which mainly includes garden and kitchen waste.
In Germany, the proportion of organic waste is between 30 and 40 percent. Collecting this waste makes absolute sense, because it can be used not only to produce high-quality humus or compost products, but also biogas. This climate-friendly biogas is used for heat, as fuel or to generate electricity.

Unfortunately, about a third of this organic waste ends up in the residual waste and not in the organic waste bin, which means that it cannot be properly recycled.
This may be partly because many citizens are not sure what exactly can and cannot be put in the organic waste. That's why we have summarized everything important in this article so that you know exactly how to separate your organic waste, whether biodegradable plastic bags are worthwhile and how to avoid your organic waste freezing in the bin in winter.

What is organic waste?

But first let's start: What is organic waste actually? Organic waste includes everything that is biodegradable and comes from either an animal or a plant. Your organic waste can therefore break down into carbon dioxide, methane or simple organic molecules.
Organic waste includes, for example, green waste, food waste, paper contaminated with food, tree trimmings and landscape waste, and wood waste. You can find a detailed list of these below.

What happens to your organic waste?

Coffee grounds, eggshells or a moldy apple - these wastes end up in your organic waste bin at best. But what exactly happens after that?
Organic waste from the organic waste bin usually ends up in composting plants or bio-fermentation plants and is then properly recycled there.


Here, the waste is first pre-treated. This means that all impurities (such as plastic bags or glass) are separated and the rest is sieved, ground or chopped.
The higher the proportion of impurities, the lower the quality of the material for later fermentation and the higher the energy required for sorting.
Biogas is then produced from the organic waste through fermentation.
Depending on the plant, this biogas is used in gas engines and temporarily stored in gas containers. Alternatively, the biogas can be processed to natural gas quality and fed into the natural gas network as biomethane.
After the fermentation process, the digestate is dewatered, which means that the liquid can be sold as liquid fertilizer to farms, private households, garden centers or wineries. The solid part can be used as compost.

Example: A banana peel generates enough energy to power an 11-watt light bulb for 34 minutes.

Example: A banana peel generates enough energy to power an 11-watt light bulb for 34 minutes.


Separating organic waste is particularly important and you should always make sure not to throw any packaging, glass or plastic bags into the organic waste. As with fermentation, the organic waste must first be freed of its impurities and sorted into coarse and fine grained parts. This is followed by the controlled composting process in the rotting phase.
High temperatures kill germs and light organic substances break down more quickly.
This is followed by a post-rotting phase lasting several weeks, which serves to form high-quality humus and to biologically stabilize the compost. After this, everything is sorted again into specific grain sizes and classified into different compost qualities. However, everything must be safe from an epidemic hygiene perspective.

What you should do with your organic waste

It is best to collect your organic waste in a small container with a lid, which you should empty into the organic waste bin or compost every three days at the latest. If you are allergic to mold, you should empty it every day or place your container on the balcony or in the garden.
The container should also be placed in a cool and shady place to avoid odors and ideally you should always fill your organic waste bin alternately with dry and wet waste, as this prevents the fermentation process.
It is also advisable to line your organic waste with tear-resistant paper bags. These are made of special paper and will decompose without any problems.
By the way, the use of biodegradable plastic bags is not recommended, as these are usually sorted out as contaminants, as it is not possible to distinguish whether they are made of bioplastic or non-degradable plastic.
Also make sure that the lid of your organic waste bin closes properly, otherwise there is a risk that odors will escape or flies will lay their eggs there.
If you do find flies or maggots in your organic waste, do not use chemical insecticides as these will poison the compost. Instead, sprinkle a thin layer of soil on top to prevent them from crawling out, or use our organic waste bin powder to kill maggots in organic waste.

What can go in your organic waste bin?

What exactly can go into your organic waste bin is decided individually by the local authorities, as it depends on how the organic waste will be recycled later. For example, some local authorities allow the disposal of oils and fats and others do not. So it is best to get sufficient information from them.
In principle, however, all garden and kitchen waste can be disposed of as organic waste, including:

  • Tree cuttings, tree bark, flowers, hedge and shrub cuttings, leaves, needles, plants, brushwood, moss, grass cuttings, weeds, wild herbs, twigs
  • Hay straw
  • Potted plants (without pot) with potting soil
  • Cut flowers
  • Paper organic waste collection bags
  • Bread leftovers
  • Eggshells
  • Fish remains and bones
  • Meat and sausage leftovers
  • Vegetable waste
  • Salad waste
  • Cheese residues, including natural rind
  • Coffee grounds
  • Bone
  • Dairy product residues
  • Nut shells
  • Fruit peels (including tropical and citrus fruits)
  • Leftovers, raw, cooked, spoiled
  • Tea residues, loose tea, tea bags (if they do not contain plastic)
  • feathers
  • Hair
  • Small animal litter (only made of biodegradable material) with excrement from small animals
  • Wood wool, wood shavings, sawdust (only from untreated wood)

What is not allowed in your organic waste bin?

  • ash
  • Flowerpots
  • Wire (e.g. floral wire)
  • Disposable plastic tableware and cutlery (including non-biodegradable ones)
  • Glass
  • Gift ribbon
  • Rubber articles
  • Treated wood residues (e.g. impregnated, varnished, glazed)
  • Hygiene products (tampons, sanitary pads, etc.)
  • Ceramics, Porcelain
  • Candle remains
  • Small animal litter, not biodegradable (e.g. mineral cat litter made from clay minerals such as bentonite, etc.)
  • Carbon paper
  • Leather scraps
  • Medicines
  • Furniture wood
  • Cardboard, paper towels, paper handkerchiefs, napkins (except paper bags for collecting organic waste or small quantities for wrapping food scraps etc.)
  • Plastic bags, plastic shopping bags (including non-biodegradable ones)
  • Cleaning rags and cloths
  • Waste containing soot pollutants, hazardous waste
  • Chipboard wood
  • Vacuum cleaner bags
  • Wallpapers
  • Carpets
  • textiles
  • Dressing material
  • Packaging made of plastic (including non-biodegradable), aluminium, glass, metal, composite packaging
  • cotton swab
  • Diapers

Can the Christmas tree actually go in the organic waste bin ?

In summary

Disposing of your organic waste correctly is a sensible thing to do, but make sure that you do not put any materials in the organic waste that do not belong there, as this will complicate the recycling process.
Also make sure you find out what types of waste are allowed in your municipality and what are not, as this can vary from place to place.

When you dispose of your organic waste, it is also an advantage if you line your waste with an organic waste bag , because this not only absorbs liquids, but also ensures that your organic waste does not freeze in winter, your bin stays cleaner and odors are avoided.