How waste works in Switzerland

This post was originally written within the first month of moving to Switzerland. Here is the original post:

I have been talking to everyone about how expensive it is to live here in Switzerland. The other day I discovered that a roll of ten trash bags, small (like bathroom waste basket small), is $23.
Before you jump to the same conclusion I did wait to hear this rational. They want to encourage people to recycle! I don't believe we pay for trash pick up, rather it's paid by the bags you use. Plus recycling is free as well (at least not directly out of pocket).
I wonder how that would play out in the US? 
Would people waste less and think more about what they are throwing away??

Fast forward to 2017 - I have lived in three different cities in the past 7 years each with similar but different ways of collecting waste.

The similarities between all the cities is the structure, meaning there is a certain day for a certain type of waste. What does that mean, "certain type of waste"? Here everything is categorized and organized to make managing the waste easier, for the city, not for you.

The differences come in mostly how your kitchen waste is collected. Some cities require you to buy a special bag, coming in a variety of sizes, and that bag is then picked up by the trash collectors once a week on your specific day. Other cities don't care what type of bag you use only that you put the proper number of pre-paid vignettes (stickers) for the size of bag used. 

If you don't use the right bag or put the right sticker on the bag they can, and will, open your trash to try and find something to tell them whose trash it is. Then you get a nice fine in the mail.

Making the effort

We spend a great deal of time considering our waste. I definitely think about it more than I ever did while living in the US. We collect, separate, and store all of our waste in the kitchen, the laundry room and even in our basement (cellar). 

For a simple example, only 6 times a year the city will come to collect your carton/cardboard (in Rheinfelden). In between the months of collection you have to store your own waste or proactively take it to a collection site.

Whoa, you better not put your paper in with the carton, there is a specific day for paper too. And for metal, large objects, yard waste, etc. They have websites that explain everything AND tell you which day is collection for the part of the city you live in.

I am poking a little fun at the topic but with all honesty I think it's fabulous. We know exactly where to go to take old paint or expired prescription medicine. I save all my kitchen scraps from cooking in special containers in my refrigerator (and it's a small refrigerator), then once a week or so I put it in a special biodegradable bag, grab my special card and go to the bio trash place to 'deposit' my waste. All that AND it costs me 0.48 chf for every deposit. 

Why go through the hassle? With only two people we don't generate enough trash to take the kitchen bag out regularly. I don't want to put anything in the trash that will stink! Plus it makes me feel good knowing that my scraps will be composted and available for people to use.

We have always recycled our PET, glass and aluminium containers either at the grocery store or at the city collection sites. Now in Rheinfelden they have added a new 'yellow' bag specifically for collecting all the plastic packaging. This is awesome! Now pretty much any plastic used can be collected in this bag. We are talking plastic wrap, plastic bags, food containers, everything!

How has this affected Switzerland?

This excerpt is taken from the Basel Stadt Office for the Environment and Energy:

Anyone who is burdening the environment should also pay for the damages incurred. This principle is enshrined in the Swiss Environmental Protection Act. For the "waste" sector, this means that the costs for the environmentally sound disposal of waste have to be a burden on the waste producers. In most municipalities in Switzerland, therefore, incineration charges were introduced, including in Basel in 1993.
The sack costs have positive effects on the environment: recycling increases and the consumption of raw materials decreases. In the canton of Basel-Stadt, for example, around 78,000 tonnes of municipal waste were burnt in 1992, before the introduction of the sack fees, and only 15,500 tonnes of recyclable materials were recycled. The recycling rate was then around 17%.
In 2012, the situation is quite different: around 32,500 tonnes of household waste (waste, bulky goods) are offset by 35,000 tonnes of separately collected wastes (including greenery). This corresponds to a recycling rate of 52%
Graph from Basel Stadt Office of Environment and Energy showing the dramatic decrease in incineration and increase in recycling after implementing a "paid sack" approach.

Graph from Basel Stadt Office of Environment and Energy showing the dramatic decrease in incineration and increase in recycling after implementing a "paid sack" approach.

I'm interested to know if there are parts of the US with such extensive considerations for waste. Tell me about it in the comment section below.

Please like and share if you want to see more of this type of post. I would also love to see your comments and questions!