Municipal waste is the term applied to waste from private households and similar facilities, such as medical and law practices, administration buildings, schools, kindergartens, hospitals and care homes, and household-like commercial waste. Municipal waste includes bulky waste, market waste, road sweepings, bio-waste and separately collected recyclable materials such as glass and paper. Municipal waste amounts to approximately 50.3 million tonnes (as of 2018), 44.4 million tonnes of which are common domestic municipal waste, including approximately 13.5 million tonnes of household waste and household-like commercial waste that is jointly collected by the public refuse services. On behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the Federal Environment Agency commissioned a study in 2020 (German title: "Vergleichende Analyse von Siedlungsrestabfällen aus repräsentativen Regionen in Deutschland") that analysed the composition of residual waste originating from private households in representative German regions. The amount of residual waste generated in private households (excluding household-like commercial waste) then shrank from 239 kg (1983) to 128 kg per capita and year (2018). The analysis of this residual waste showed that it still contained a relatively high proportion of recyclable materials. It consisted of approximately 40 percent bio-waste, the material and energetic value of which cannot be recovered as a consequence. It also contained a large share of plastics, waste paper, glass and composites, which should usually be separated.
Domestic waste management falls within the exclusive competence of the legal persons responsible under Land law (public bodies responsible for waste management), which are, in general, the municipalities. The obligation to hand over waste to the public bodies responsible for waste management, laid down in section 17 (1) of the Circular Economy Act, applies to household waste. These bodies may avail themselves of third party services, for example private waste management companies, to fulfil their obligations. Waste is collected directly at the private households. Municipalities use waste calendars, amongst other things, to provide information on the collection dates for the different types of waste.
The municipalities or authorised third parties ensure environmentally sound waste management. Wherever possible, recyclable waste, for example glass and paper, is to be recycled, for example by composting bio-waste from the bio-bin or through energy recovery. In 2018, a total of approximately 67 percent of municipal waste was recycled. Non-recoverable residual waste is treated at waste incineration plants or undergoes mechanical-biological waste treatment. Only residues remaining after this treatment and inert waste may be stored in landfills. Since 1 June 2005, it has been prohibited to deposit untreated, biodegradable municipal waste in landfills.