German Language Blog

Germany’s Illegal Sustainability Trend Posted by on Jun 25, 2019 in Uncategorized

Sustainability is becoming more important everyday as the world becomes more aware of climate change. However in Germany one sustainability trend is actually illegal. Tonnes of food is thrown away every day, mainly from supermarkets because it is past its sell by date, this however doesn’t mean it isn’t edible.

Containern – in English “dumpster diving” is where you take edible food found in the bin or containers from supermarkets. This means less food waste and it is of course cheaper than going food shopping. In Germany it is seen as theft.

Last month the political parties and Justice Minister of Hamburg tried to legalize this “crime”, however they didn’t succeed. It appears that the government doesn’t want people to find themselves in such unhygenic situations, even though it would help reduce food waste.

Other countries have better ideas and solutions to this problem. In Switzerland, Containern is legal (unless you break into a private area, or damage the container). In the Czech Republic they have to donate any unsold food to charities and in France supermarkets that are bigger than 400 square meter are verpflichtet (obliged) to partner with a charity to donate their food to. This does come as a surprise that Germany is still not legalizing it. Two students have even been sent to court for stealing. The Richter (judge) said himself that he doesn’t like the fact that he has to condemn them for this “crime”.

Incase you want to stop food waste and are thinking of going Containern, here are a few tips:

  1. Avoid nuts – it is hard to tell if nuts are gone off or not and can become poisonous.
  2. Wear a Stirnlampe! (headlamp) – so you can see better
  3. Check when the bins get emptied – this way you know that the supermarkets probably empty their shelves the night before, meaning the food will be at its freshest.
  4. Check your country’s law – although a lot of people still do Containern in Germany, please check that it isn’t illegal in your own country and if so what the risks are.

And to finish off here is all of the important vocabulary for this post:

Containern                            comes from Container and is a bit of denglish
der Müll                                  the rubbish
der Abfall                               the rubbish
die Lebensmittelabfälle   the food waste
das Verbrechen                   the crime
das Gericht                             the court
die Stirnlampe                      the headlamp
das Essen                               the food
der Supermarkt                  the supermarket
die Nachhaltigkeit              the sustainability
der Klimawandel               the climate change

What are your thoughts on Containern?

Thanks for reading,


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About the Author: Larissa

Hello I'm Larissa. I live in Germany and I am half German and half English. I love sharing my passion for Germany with you through my posts! Apart from writing posts I teach fitness classes in Munich.


  1. Mark:

    When I was a poor university student a friend and I found out when Dunkin Donuts tossed out their “old” product. We’d check the dumpster and grab a filled trash bag. Good times!

    • Larissa:

      @Mark Sounds worth it for a dunkin donut Mark!!!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂


  2. Charles W. Pfeiffer:

    Great improvement! Please keep including the articles with the nouns. When learning German they simply need to be seen as part of the word so that one knows the proper from to use when speaking or writing.
    Thank you!!!

    • Larissa:

      @Charles W. Pfeiffer Glad you like the post Charles! I will continue to post with articles 🙂

  3. Brian Silvis:

    I think you know what “Dumpster Diving” is in English, but this article left out an important detail. “Dumpster Diving” is when a person goes through the trash (or dumpster) to get something they want. That item is usually food, but it could also be even discarded lumber from a construction site, for example.
    Great article and keep up the wonderful job!

    • Larissa:

      @Brian Silvis Hi Brian,

      I didn’t write what else you can find whilst dumpster diving as the topic in Germany at the moment is mainly about food (it’s all the newspapers write about!), but thank you for your input – it is of course a very useful way to reuse objects. It appears that people in Germany seem to dumpster dive more for food than anything else!

      Thanks for your comment,