The law must still pass Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, before becoming law.
This will introduce yet another rubbish bin to German streets, back yards and municipal recycling depots – an orange one for non-packaging metals and plastics – to stand next to the multiple glass bins, as well as those for paper, organic waste, packaging and non-recyclable rubbish.
Environment Minister Nobert Röttgen said Germany would become less dependent on ever-more expensive raw materials if it were to further increase its recycling rate. Currently 13 percent of Germany's material use is covered by recycled rubbish, while 65 percent of household waste is recycled.
Opposition parties voted against the law though, as they felt it did not afford enough protection to municipal governments against private firms which profit from collecting and re-selling rubbish.
The government strengthened the municipalities' position at the last minute – reportedly due to fears that the law could be rejected in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.
Now private operators will only be eligible for a contract to collect paper, glass and other materials if the municipality does not have a high-tech collection system. The collections must also be guaranteed for at least three years, regardless of possible drops in material prices.
“This law is a very important building block of a policy which no longer understands ecology and economy as opposites,” said Röttgen.
The recycling sector creates around €50 billion in turnover.
“We all know the problems and challenges of raw material shortages,” said Röttgen, adding that Germany had to learn to get by on fewer resources yet continue to achieve good economic growth.
The law gives priority to reuse, recycling and avoiding rubbish that has to be disposed of and is thus a further departure “from the old principle of burning or burying,” said Röttgen.
“We will, and this is the next step, introduce a reusable materials bin,” he said.
This should increase the amount of reusable or recyclable material collected per capita by seven kilos each year. It has even been mooted that the new bin could replace the yellow ones currently used for packaging as it could all be dealt with in the same place.
The law would also make it a legal duty to separate waste paper, metal, packaging and organic waste as well as glass.