Zero Waste Guide: Berlin, Germany

Are you visiting Berlin or planning to? (You should!)

Berlin is full of history and culture so you are in it for a treat. Visit Jüdishes Museum Berlin for German-Jewish history as well as for its great architecture by Daniel Liebeskind. Hop in Tränenpalast at Friedrichstraße station for a glimpse of life in the divided Germany. Stroll down cool neighbourhoods, full of cheap eats and cosy cafes (favourites include Schillerkiez with Tempelhofer FeldOld Rixdorf in Neukölln and Akazienkiez in Schöneberg). Check Sammlung Boros in Mitte for a contemporary art collection in a former bunker. If you are into photography make sure to stop at the C/O Gallery in Charlottenburg. There are plenty of green areas in the city if you need a rest, like Tiergarten and Treptower Park. Don’t miss the open air cinema season in the summer (Freiluftkino) as well as the international comedy scene at the Comedy Cafe.

Berlin is also a great city for a sustainability enthusiast! Green businesses are blooming here (check GreenMe Berlin Map), vegan and vegetarian eats are everywhere to find (check Vegan Berlin Map) and the city is full of thrift shopping possibilities (check Vintage and second-hand map). If you run out of drinking water while you are on the go, pay attention to the refill sticker on the bars and stores. They will refill your bottle (for free) with tap water, which is, of course, drinkable in Berlin (check the map for all of the places that offer refill).

I find it fairly easy (and fun!) to stay zero waste in the city and you can find some more specific recommendations on that below!

urban gardening

urban gardeningUrban gardening project Prinzessinengarten, Berlin

Food shopping

    • Maybachufer Markt (Maybachufer, Kreuzberg). Berlin has plenty of well-visited food markets and the market on the Maybachufer might be the most famous one! Open on Tuesdays and Fridays, it has everything from fruits and veggies, to cheese, nuts and meat as well as cheap, ready to eat snacks. Your own containers are welcome.
    • Die Dicke Linda (Kranoldplatz, Neukölln): if you want something more peaceful, this one is a proper farmers market with exclusively regional produce. It’s open on Saturdays.
    • Original Unverpackt (Wiener Str. 16, Kreuzberg): this crowd-funded startup was one of the first zero waste stores in Europe. Definitely has the most bulk options in the city and many other gems!
    • Balera Weinhandlung (Karl Marx Platz 6, Neukölln): three Italian girls opened this lovely place to sell some amazing Italian wine at affordable prices. Bring your own bottles or buy them for a couple of € in the store.
    • BioSphäre (Weserstr. 212), Bioase 44 (Karl-Marx-Str. 162) and Dr Pogo Veganladen-Kollektiv (Karl-Marx-Platz 24) are three nice bio-stores in Neukölln that offer bulk options. You can find more zero waste shopping options in different districts with the Zero Waste Home App.

Eating & Drinks

  • Prinzessinengarten (Prinzenstr. 35-38, Kreuzberg): a former wasteland turned into an urban garden by locals and activists to produce fresh food inside the city. Besides visiting the garden, you can get drinks or snack and chill under the tree crowns. Occasionally there is also a flea market and workshops on sustainable living.
  • Cafe Botanico (Richardstr. 100, Neukölln): an Italian restaurant that serves fresh food from their permaculture garden. They also offer urban permaculture workshops and garden tours.
  • Cafe Vux (Wipperstr. 14, Neukölln): Brasilian-inspired vegan cafe with great cakes and brunch buffet on Sundays.
  • Himmelbeet Low Waste Cafe (Ruheplatzstr. 12, Wedding): a community garden cafe that avoids packaging, financed by Berlin’s foundation for environmental protection.
  • Restlos Glücklich (Schinkestr. 14, Neukölln): a food waste restaurant that prepares creative vegetarian dishes. They use perfectly good food that would otherwise be wasted by producers and supermarkets. It’s run by volunteers whose aim is to spread the message about food waste and responsible consumption. They also offer cooking courses.
  • Cafe Dritter Raum (Hertzbergstr. 14, Neukölln): great place for coffee, breakfast or brunch on the weekends. You can even borrow their take-away stainless steel containers (or bring your own) and take your meal to a park!

Second-hand finds

  • Sing Blackbird (Sanderstr. 11, Neukölln): vintage and hand-made clothes, mostly for women. They also serve coffee.
  • Let them eat cake (Weserstr. 164, Neuköln): lovely second-hand and vintage store, mostly for women.
  • Repeater (Pannierstr. 45, Neukölln): second-hand and vintage store, with big jeans collection for men and women.
  • Dress Code (Nostitzstr. 25, Kreuzberg): second-hand clothes store, mostly for women. They usually have lots of vintage dresses.
  • Flea market at Boxhagener Platz (Boxhagenerplatz, Friedrichshain): a well-known and pretty big flea market (as well as a farmers market) open on Saturdays.

Dealing with waste

  • Germans are pretty crazy about separating waste at home, but you won’t find many recycling bins on the streets. In case you make any recyclable waste, my advice is to bring it back to your accommodation. You can check my guide on recycling in Germany here.
  • Germany has a great bottle deposit system. You pay about 15 cents extra for bottles (it’s called pfand), which you get back upon return to any store which sells drinks. The bottles are then sent back to be washed and reused. Since Berlin is a poor city, you can get a drink (many of them locally produced!) at the nearest Spätkauf and leave the empty bottle on the sidewalk for the homeless.
  • In case your accommodation doesn’t have an organic bin you can try composting your food scraps at an urban gardening site.

Getting around

  • Berlin is quite big for a European capital, so if you get tired of walking, hop on a bike like the locals. You can borrow a free bike via Bikesurf (it’s like Couchsurfing for bikes) or sign up for one of the bike sharing systems (I have spotted Deutsche Bahn/Lidl bikes and Deezer Nextbike bicycles).
  • If it gets too cold, there is also the public transportation network, a combination of trains, buses and trams. It covers the inner-city rather well and runs for 24 hours on the weekend. There are also e-car and e-scooter sharing options.
  • If you are arriving from or departing to another European city, you can take advantage of energy-efficient log distance buses or try to carpool with the locals.

Do you have any other local tips or questions? Please let me know! Also, don’t forget to connect with me on Pinterest and Bloglovin’ 🙂

21 Comments Add yours

  1. Marco says:

    Hello Sara!

    Thankyou for your excellent website! I am researching a documentary in England about solutions to plastic waste. I am in Berlin from Nov 22-27th. I am looking to talk to and maybe briefly film a soundbite from people who are fighting the plastic problem. I would love to talk to you if possible. If you can’t meet me yourself could you point me in the direction of any organisation or individual that could educate me about the situation in Berlin?

    Many thanks

    1. Sara @ untrashified says:

      Hi Marco! Thanks for stopping by here. That’s so interesting, sure we can meet! I’ll send you an email to your hotmail address…

  2. Claudi says:

    Hi Sarah – thanks so much for the shout out 🙏 Great to hear you found our map useful 💚 And SO true, Berlin is a paradise for people who wanna be sustainable + still have heaps of fun! Which area did you stay?

  3. Roxane says:

    Hi Sara!

    Thank you for this great article and blog.
    I have trouble finding zero waste, local and organic vegetables. Do you know where I could find that?

    Thanks and have a great week-end!

  4. Shirley Fort says:

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is needed to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100 sure. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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