Various container systems and vehicles are used for waste collection and transport, depending on the type of waste involved, whereby a distinction is made between systematic and systemless waste collection.
In Germany, systemless collection of household waste has for the most part given way to the use of a broad range of container systems whose main purposes is to allow for source separation of various types of waste. The containers are placed either in very close proximity to households (pick-up system), or at central locations (drop-off system). Residual waste is deposited in gray containers, to which end the following elements are used: wheeled bins that can accommodate 120 to 140 liters of waste; garbage bags; and 1.1 cubic meter containers that are used in settings such as large apartment buildings.
Information as to which types of waste can be deposited in which type of container is available from local authorities via waste collection schedules and so called waste ABCs, in printed form and/or online. Such waste collection procedures are governed by local waste ordinances, which stipulate waste collection charges, among other things.
Many different types of waste are collected in separate containers, which is a key precondition especially for the environmentally sound material recycling. This also allows to closed material cycles as far as possible, which makes a significant contribution to reduce primary raw materials use.
In the 1990s, Germany established so called dual systems, which allow for separate collection recovery and disposal of product packaging close proximity to households. The obligation to commission a dual system with fulfilling the producer responsibility concerning waste management and the obligations of dual systems are governed by the Waste Management Act (Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz) or rather the Packaging Act (Verpackungsgesetz).
Waste glass and paper are deposited in separate containers located either in residential neighborhoods, via depot containers or at recycling yards. The latter facilities allow for the proper disposal of a broad range of recyclables and problematic wastes (hazardous waste). The Waste Management Act (Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz) calls for separate collection of organic waste throughout Germany in the future (this is already done at the regional level).
The 2005 Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (Elektro- und Elektronikgerätegesetz), stipulates that electrical and electronic waste is to be collected separately from unsorted municipal waste. This allows for the recovery of valuable secondary raw materials such as metals, while also allowing for proper disposal of pollutants.
Under German law the 1998 Battery Oridiance (Batterieverordnung), subsequently superseded by the 2009 Battery Act (Batteriegesetz), batteries must be collected separately and recovered. Retailers are required by law to take back waste batteries free of charge. For device waste batteries this is done using collection containers, or via in-store collection points. German law also requires that scrap cars be drained, dismantled and recovered in an environmentally sound manner, so as to avoid direct environmental harm and allow for the recovery of recyclables. These procedures are governed by the End-of-life Vehicles Ordiance (Altfahrzeugverordnung), which requires car producers to take back scrap cars free of charge via a comprehensive network. A vehicle owner wishing to dispose of their car is required to have this done via a recognized dismantling service or collection point.
Commercial waste generated by small businesses is likewise collected and transported via household waste containers (e.g. 240 liter or 1.1 cubic meter containers) or alternatively via exchange containers, which are also widely used for construction waste collection and transport.
Specific types of systems are used to collect and transport the various types of hazardous waste. For instance, garages collect waste oil in suitable containers, whereupon tank trucks transport the oil to waste-oil recycling facilities.