We feel incredibly lucky to have a lifestyle that is centered around nature conservation, but you don’t have to work in conservation to make a difference. Conservation Corner is a series where I highlight the many ways people around the world are making an effort to tread a little lighter on our planet.
I am thrilled to add this post about Switzerland by Ute Limacher-Riebold to the Conservation Corner series. Ute writes about multilingualism and her life as an expat at Expat Since Birth, she shares useful information for families moving to the Hauge at Expat Living in the Hague and offers support to expats at Ute’s Expat Lounge. Ute has a wealth of information to share with families living abroad and I thoroughly enjoy her insights, particularly in regards to raising third culture kids.
I plan to highlight one story a month and I hope to make this a space where people who walk with light footsteps meet. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in contributing to this series or stop by the Conservation Corner page for a list of upcoming posts.
One thing that always impresses me in Switzerland is its efficiency. Switzerland in known for its efficiency in many sectors and this applies also to the waste management and recycling. Tourists often admire how clean and proper it is in this small and wonderful country. For some, this neatness can be frustrating but it also gives the impression that Swiss take care of their country.
I did learn a lot from living in Switzerland, especially to be more conscious about the huge waste we buy in supermarkets. Why should we buy cookies wrapped in plastic and in a plastic box if we can have them freshly baked and in a paperbag? Why buying plastic bottles if the same drink comes in glass bottles (that cost more but you’re refunded when you bring back the bottle)? I got used to question many ways of packing food and still avoid packages, plastic, canned food etc.. – I prefer glass and use my own bags or containers whenever possible.
Compared to the other countries I know, the whole lifestyle in Switzerland seems greener: waste separation is normal, people rather take public means of transportation instead of the car. In the 17 years I lived in Switzerland, I didn’t need a car. If I needed one to transport something or to travel somewhere where public transportation wouldn’t take me fast or far enough, I did borrow a car with Mobility. You can rent a car at a train station for example, use it the time you need leave it to the nearest train station. Voilà! As simple as that. You can do the same often with bikes: you rent a bike and go from A to B, and leave it there.
Some facts about the waste in Switzerland
The Swiss do not landfill their municipal waste and since 2000 everything that cannot be recycled or composted gets incinerated. The incinerators are very advanced in Switzerland and the air pollution is minimal. The incinerators, besides, are used to produce energy and the 28 facilities in Switzerland generate electricity for 250,000 homes, which decreases the amount of oil imports required for heating.
The Swiss can proudly claim to be among the top recyclers in the world. They recycle about 76 percent of everything that’s recyclable, i.e. 50% of all urban waste. How do they get people to be so concerned about environment? They have financial incentives and infrastructures that make it convenient for citizens to do their job.
Recycling is free, but the waste removal is not. In Switzerland there is often a per bag fee of 1 Euro and each bag requires a sticker to provide proof of payment: no sticker no pick-up. And the fine of not paying your waste disposal fee can be up to sFr. 10,000 if you’re caught… Since 1996 there are waste-detectives all over Switzerland who would check the garbage and fine those who did not separate the waste – Also littering is fined: you can risk to pay 40-50 Sfr for not throwing your litter in the bin.
How does it work?
Every town has free paper and green waste pick up and there are plenty of speciality sites available for aluminum, tin, oil or chemical waste among others.
Many super markets in Switzerland have a bottle bank (with separate slots for different glass colors) and batteries can be handed over at the counter. Consumers can leave all unwanted packaging at the cash register to leave the onus of wasteful packaging on the suppliers. In big supermarkets like Migros or Coop the customer can bring the used materials like paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, PET and plastic directly back to the shop.
Photo Credit: C.R.
But not only the big shops offer this recycling service to the customers, also smaller ones like Body Shop, cosmeticians have special offers for customers who bring back the empty bottles. And opticians would recollect empty bottles of their products (for lenses for example).
This awareness to produce as less waste as possible is adopted by many who live in Switzerland
On the 23rd of August 2012 opened the Umwelt Arena in Spreitenbach. It is a exposition platform for topics about sustainability in nature and life (in general), energy and mobility, building and modernising like renewable energy. The aim is to show visitors the connections of environmentally friendly products and their techniques. The visitors can experience how they organise their lives by going easy on resources without limiting or relinquishing something. Umwelt Arena wants to sensitize and inform the visitors about how to improve the environmental technologies and how to be more sustainable with our resources.
Ute Limacher-Riebold is a multilingual expat-since-birth living in the Netherlands with her husband and three children. Researcher, language trainer, counsellor and coach, she shares her knowledge about multilingualism, international living and parenting multilingual children in a multicultural context, culture and much more on her blogs Expatsincebirth, Expat Living in The Hague and Ute’s Expat Lounge. Twitter: https://twitter.com/UtesExpatLounge, https://twitter.com/expatsincebirth Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Utesexpatlounge, https://www.facebook.com/Expatsincebirth, https://www.facebook.com/pages/European-Third-Culture-Kids
Thank you Ute, it was a pleasure to learn about all the green initiatives in Switzerland. I especially love that customers can leave any unwanted packaging at the cash register!