After arriving at Frankfurt airport from Washington on Sunday, the young US national donned a high-visibility vest and picked up two bags of rubbish.
“He then tried to convince security staff that he was a cleaner and was supposed to empty the bins behind the security area,” federal police said in a statement.
However, his plan was foiled when a member of staff noticed he was not wearing a security pass and couldn't speak German.
He confessed at a police station that he was desperate to see his girlfriend and couldn't think of another way of entering the country.
Even if he had managed to reach the bins, the man would still have been in the airport's transit area, police said – meaning he would still have faced more border controls.
After being questioned, the young romantic was sent back to Washington on Monday.
Germany has imposed tough border controls to try to stop the spread of Covid-19, which has infected more than 170,000 people in the country.