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Recycling Around the World A-Z: Switzerland

Recycling Around the World A-Z: Switzerland

Recycling Around the World A to Z


Recycling is taken very seriously in Switzerland, and this is reflected in the fact that the country consistently tops world rankings for recycling rates. The recycling effort is backed up by stringent rules and regulations, but they have proven that, with a little time and effort, recycling can be a success.

Along with regulation, there is a financial incentive to recycle. Recycling is free, but throwing rubbish away costs money. Each rubbish bag you throw away has a sticker on it, which costs 1 Euro. So, the less you throw out, the less it will cost you. If your bag does not have a sticker on, the rubbish won’t be collected. You may not think 1 Euro is much, but add this up over a month, then over a year, then you can see why most people recycle.

Recycling efforts

Switzerland’s robust recycling efforts are evident in how they recycle. This is what they recycle, and how they recycle it:

Glass bottles

There are bottle banks at every supermarket, with separate slots to allow the separation of clear, green, and brown glass, which makes for easier recycling.

Paper and cardboard

There is a free waste paper collection every month, and this doesn’t just apply to newspapers, you can recycle any type of paper or card. Residents leave any paper they want to be collected neatly bundled up on the kerbside. There are containers for the collection of cardboard in most neighbourhoods. If the cardboard is from purchasing a large item, it can be taken back to the place of purchase for disposal.

Green waste

Garden waste is collected every 2 weeks and must be left out on the street, as long as it’s neatly bundled.

Aluminium and tin

Tins can be taken to local recycling depots, and batteries can be taken to collection points at supermarkets.

Plastic PET bottles

These are very commonly used in Switzerland, and about 80% of them are recycled. This is much higher than the average recycling rate across Europe which is between 20 and 40%. Residents can return these containers to supermarkets.

Switzerland Recycling Rate


There is a community compost heap in most areas, and the compost is spread over local parks and beauty spots.

Household waste

This goes in the ‘Saecke’ or sacks, that residents can buy from supermarkets or post offices. The bags are available in different sizes, though they are all quite small, because the idea is, you’re supposed to recycle.

What happens in Zurich...

So, the rubbish sacks must be purchased, and they are not for recyclables such as compost, PET bottles, glass, carton, paper, aluminium cans, or batteries.

The available bag sizes are: 17l, 35l, 60l and 110l

Full bin bags must be placed in designated containers which are situated around neighbourhoods.

Glass and aluminium

These should be separated and dropped off at local recycling points. The recycling points are usually near tram or bus stops, or in main shopping areas. Glass is separated by colour, and PET containers can be taken back to supermarkets.

Large bulky items

These need to be collected by a designated company, or dropped off at a recycling point.

Cardboard and paper

These are picked up from your home for free once every month. Items suitable for collection include newspapers, magazines, printed materials, telephone books (but not ordinary books), egg boxes, vegetable boxes, and other cardboard boxes. All items must be piled up and bundled with twine.

Clothes and shoes

Charity recycling bags are often given to residents so they can give their unwanted items to charity.

Cardboard and Paper

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