How to Speak About Rubbish in German

by Expath Language School

The vocabulary about “garbage” in German is vast... and well worth knowing it.


Strictly speaking, the English word “garbage” refers to spoiled food or other kitchen refuse, whereas “trash” refers to any worthless or discarded materials. “Rubbish” is a word mainly used in British English to refer to something without value. In common usage, the terms are often used interchangeably.

Similarly, the German words Müll and Abfall are often used interchangeably, but, strictly speaking Abfall (literally “fall-off”) implies that the items are not necessarily without value. In other words, they could be re-used or converted into something else.

A “trash can” or “rubbish bin” is usually Mülleimer or Abfalleimer or, for the big one outside, Mülltonne. A “wastepaper basket” is Papierkorb.

“Garbage collection” or “garbage disposal” is Müllabfuhr in German, a “garbage truck” is Müllwagen, the “garbage dump” or “rubbish dump” is Müllabladeplatz or Müllhalde. A “garbage man” is Müllmann. A “rubbish sack” or “trash bag” is Müllsack.

Among many others, the word Müll can also be used when to reffer to what someone is saying as being nonsense (“rubbish”), although Quatsch is a bit more commonnly used.


Überall ist Müll. Garbage is everywhere.

Er redet nur noch Müll. He‘s just talking trash.

Sie holen jeden Freitag den Müll ab. They pick up the garbage every Friday.

Der Hausabfall war heute abgeholt. The household waste was collected today.

Jeden Morgen kommt die Müllwagen um 6 Uhr. The garbage truck comes every morning at six am.

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