The Global Fight Against Litter - Germany

The Global Fight Against Litter - Germany

The Global Fight Against Litter


Litter is a blight on our landscape. Whether it is cigarette butts, crisp packets, chewing gum, or fast food wrappers, it spoils our streets, parks, and beaches, and it does untold damage to the environment. It can cause problems for public health, and for wildlife, and many authorities in different countries are starting to come down hard on litter bugs.

Many countries have introduced fines and stricter legislation to deal with the growing problem, and are focusing their efforts on encouraging people to take responsibility for litter and to not drop it in the first place.

How can you help to combat litter?

Litter is everyone’s business, and individuals and businesses need to take more pride in the local area in which they live and operate. A clean environment gives out the message that people care about the area and that litter will not be tolerated. A littered area tells people the opposite, and encourages further littering. Joining or organising a litter pick, and taking responsibility for disposing of your own litter responsibly are just some of the ways in which you can help to tackle the problem.

What kind of litter is most prevalent?

Smoking related litter is among the most commonly discarded litter. This is mainly in the form of cigarette butts, and matches and packaging makes up the rest.

Chewing gum does not degrade. It makes an area look very uncared for, and it is difficult and expensive to remove. Techniques such as jet washing have to be used to get rid of it from pavements.

 Fast food litter including bags and wrappers is another common problem. It can make an area look untidy, and it can attract vermin.

Where is litter most commonly found?  

By the roadside

Roadside litter looks untidy and gives visitors the wrong impression about an area. It is expensive to clear up, and harmful to wildlife.

At the coast and in waterways

This includes litter on beaches, whether it is washed up, or deliberately discarded. The most common types of litter found on beaches includes plastic, glass, metal, cloth, paper, polystyrene, rubber, and wood. Sewage and related debris can also end up on beaches.

Litter on beaches is mainly caused by beach visitors, fishing, shipping, and the sewage network.

Beach litter impacts on tourism and on wildlife. Who wants to spend time on a litter strewn beach?

Reducing waste and tackling litter in Germany

If you have ever visited Germany, you will probably have noticed how immaculate the streets look. Stricter laws on litter, and some clever initiatives, mean that the country has largely successfully tackled the blight of litter.


Deposit return schemes

Deposit return legislation

This legislation was passed in 2002, and it has met with resistance from retailers and those in the bottling industry.

Cans, and single-use glass and plastic bottles can be returned to retailers for a refund of 25 cents.

Refillable bottle rates vary, and wine bottles can be returned for a 2 cents refund, beer bottles will get you 8 cents, and crates of bottles can get you 1.50 Euros.

Most supermarkets in Germany have a reverse vending machine, which can scan returns and gives you a receipt for the total value of returned items that can be exchanged for cash or used for money off purchases.

Working with McDonalds to combat litter

McDonalds is working with German teenagers and young adults to help to keep German towns and cities clean. he scheme was launched back in 2010 to coincide with the World Cup tournament, and it encouraged young people to dispose of their waste responsibly.

McDonalds has already met their target of 90% waste recycling, and their next target is to minimise the amount of litter that is strewn around outside of the restaurants.

The idea behind targeting 14-29 year olds is that this is the age group which tend to drop the most litter. In surveys, 20% of people in this age group admitted to dropping litter.

The onus on business owners

By law, German shopkeepers are required to keep the pavement in front of their premises free from litter, regardless of where the litter came from. If they fail to do so, they get a warning from the council and face a fine.

Fishing for litter

This is a scheme whereby fishermen are encouraged to volunteer to bring litter ashore when it gets caught in their nets. There are around 6 harbours and a total of 60 fishermen who are involved in the scheme.

The fishermen are given special large bags to store the litter they collect and there are containers for disposing of it in the harbours. The litter collected is analysed so that the composition of it can be recorded, and potential recyclable waste such as metal or plastic can be extracted.

The fishing for litter scheme is part of the wider “Plastic free Oceans” project which was launched in 2010 to increase public awareness of marine littering.