A Page from the Swiss Rule Book: Recycling

Post by Lauren

I am all about protecting Mother Earth. However, here in Switzerland, it really requires a lot of knowledge and time to keep up with your recycling. I really don’t know how I would manage if I were working full-time and had to do all of this, especially with the limited hours that the bins are available for use and stores are open. Also, they have “garbage police” that track down any offenders via rooting though your garbage for clues about your identity.

So, here is a breakdown of what is required:

Aluminum – cans go to a special aluminum bin that is normally located in your neighborhood recycling area. Note that my closest one is on the walk to the women’s club, so I take aluminum on days I have French.

Batteries & Lightbulbs – you have to take these back to the store you bought them. Usually the bin is right before you get into the store. We haven’t had this happen yet but good to know.


Compost – you are required collect your natural food scraps and put it in the special bin for compost. They make special bags for this but I have been using the bags that my salad comes in to dump since the teeny bags are about 1 CHF each.

Glass bottles – these go to a neighborhood collection site. The closest one is 3 blocks away, on my way to the post office. Usually this bag gets quite heavy as I despise going to the post office. Note the bag can get very full if you have a dinner party with beer and wine.

WARNING – you are only allowed to do this within certain hours, 8a-8pm, and NEVER on Sundays or holidays. My friend Alysoun and her husband were severely reprimanded by two separate neighbors for breaking this ordinance on the last Swiss holiday during the middle of the day, which was on a Monday.

Milk bottles – these have to actually go back to the grocery store, they usually go to the milk section inside the store – there is a little hole in the wall you insert your old bottles into. This has to happen during store hours, 8:30-7pm and when you know you are going to the store. One day, I carried three empty milk bottles around all day because I knew I was going to hit the Co-op that afternoon.

Paper & cardboard – this goes in your building’s bin. If your building doesn’t have a bin, you have to tie it up neatly in a 1’ x 1’ bundle tied with twine and put it on the street a certain day.


PET / Plastic Bottles – these have to be collected from the store you brought it from since it is the liability of the store from making profit of selling plastic bottles. So when you go grocery shopping, you need to return them with you. Sometimes these bins are just outside of the store, sometimes they are in the store.


While I feel very eco-responsible, I do miss single stream like we had in the US. And I never leave the house without a bag of something to recycle. I am a continual bag lady. This is typically the size of the load I carry out each day:



We had been keeping everything in the kitchen for convenience:

However, I finally couldn’t take the eyesore and smell, so I invented a new bin using a Rubbermaid tote. It sits outside on our kitchen balcony.

Happy Recycling Everyone!


4 thoughts on “A Page from the Swiss Rule Book: Recycling

  1. Blake, i just so happen to know someone.  She was in our wedding.  I am hoping she reads this and gives me a sweet licensing deal on my beautiful invention

  2. This makes my head hurt!  Can you imagine if you went from a small town in Rural VA (not named), and hadn’t been recycling into this culture?!  Glad you are able to keep up with all of it, and not get reprimanded too frequently by the garbage police.  (Glad I don’t have that job!).

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