Photo-illustration: Pixabay (hhach)

To meet the challenges of waste management and promote sustainability, Germany actively participates in the waste trade, both on the import and export side, to maximize the opportunities for recycling and reuse of waste materials. In 2023, the quantity of waste that Germany traded with other countries was substantial, according to data collated by the Federal Statistics Office (Destatis).

Germany exported 16.3 million tonnes of waste worth 11.4 billion euros, while at the same time, it imported 13.4 million tonnes of waste for 14.6 billion euros. These figures show a decrease in waste trade compared to 2022, with exports falling both in volume by 2.8 per cent and in value by 18 per cent, while imports also experienced a decline of 15.3 per cent in volume and 22.2 per cent in value. The data reflect both global economic changes and the drive towards more efficient resource management.


The majority of Germany’s waste trade is done with European countries, with significant exports to the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, and most imports coming from the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic. This confirms the strong cooperation in Europe in terms of recycling and waste management.

In addition to the European market, Asia is also a significant external market for Germany, with India, Malaysia and Pakistan as key destinations for waste exports. According to the relevant data, 7.6 per cent of Germany waste exports go to Asia, while only 0.8 per cent of waste imports come from Asia.

At the beginning of 2024, there was a quantitative increase in the export of waste compared to the same period in 2023, while the value of the export decreased somewhat. Similarly, waste imports have recorded a drop in both volume and value, indicating ongoing adaptation and optimization in Germany’s trade and environmental strategies.

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