Saturday, January 14, 2012

Trash Matters

The Swiss, for better or for worse, have a reputation for being strict with their rules and unaccommodating to deviation. This stereotype has been most visible to me with regards to the subject of waste management (echo, echo...). In the US, for as long as I can remember, recycling at home has meant throwing whatever you want recycled into a bin and every week or two, someone comes and takes it away. Sure, there were a few years in Seattle where there was a separate container for glass, but that went away soon enough. Where it all went, who knows.

In Zurich (and most everywhere else in Switzerland), things are of course a bit different and require more thought:
  • Metal and glass are dropped of in neighborhood collection areas. We have one about one block away and another about three blocks away. Because this is Switzerland, you can only deposit at them from 7am to 7pm, Monday through Saturday. No Sunday recycling, y'all. If you recycle outside of these hours, people will give you dirty looks. That is your punishment for most things in Switzerland.

  • Plastic drink bottles are generally taken back to the grocery store and dropped into big baskets. These grocery stores also sometimes have drops for batteries and light bulbs.

  • Plastic non-drink bottles are generally not recyclable. Same for plastic bags. Baffling!

  • Paper and cardboard are collected from homes, but only periodically. Paper is every two weeks or so, cardboard is four to five weeks, and it will only be collected if it is neatly bound (like a present!) or otherwise self-contained.

  • About once a quarter, a bag is dropped in mailboxes for clothing and shoe donations.

  • Electronics that are kaput or otherwise useless can be taken to stores that sell similar items for recycling. OR, in Zurich, you can go to my favorite recycling-related-thing: the cargo/e-tram. This is basically a big dump truck that shows up at different tram stops in the city and accepts either electronics for recycling or big bulky things that would otherwise not fit into your trash bag. I don't know why I think it's so great, but it is.

  • As for trash bags, or the Zuri-Sack in Zurich, they are purchased from grocery stores or the post office for about 2 CHF ($2.50ish) a piece: rather than pay a trash bill, you pay at source, so the incentive is to fill up that bag as much as you can and use it as little as possible.

For compost, I don't have a clue what to do - I wonder how our neighbors would react to a worm bin on the front deck?

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