Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear Frau: Swiss Recycling is Confusing!

Welcome to the latest Dear Frau column. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. Don't forget, if you have a question, be sure to contact The Frau. And maybe your little Frage will be in the next Dear Frau.

Dear Frau,

I just stumbled across your blog today. I'm new to Switzerland and I need Dear Frau's help. Can you please explain the recycling situation to me? After some trial and error I have finally figured out my regular rubbish, but recycling remains a mystery. Please help!


New and Confused

Dear New and Confused

Welcome to the club. The Frau also spent many months being perplexed by the Swiss recycling system. After confusion, comes clarity: in order to recycle properly in Switzerland, you must become a Bag Lady.

The Frau is also known as The Bag Lady of Baden, as on any weekday (not before 8am, between 12-2pm, or after 8pm) you can find her dragging everything from empty glass bottles to aluminum cans to PET plastic around town in her little orange IKEA cart.

Instead of feeling like a Save-The-Planet Winner, The Frau often feels like a Homeless Loser.

But she digresses.

Here’s why Swiss recycling is confusing: every little thing has its own place and none of them are in the same place. The glass goes to the glass bin nearest to you, the paper gets tied with string and put on your front-step every six weeks, and the apple core goes in the green bio bucket that you must purchase a sticker for at the local grocery store. It’s enough to confuse anyone.

That’s why last year, The Frau wrote, “Tips from a Bag Lady,” for Swiss News. You can read the article here. Be enlightened, dear friends. And hopefully be entertained as the article also includes a sidebar of trash horror stories from expats like you (police going through their trash, people yelling at them for recycling glass during the lunch hour, etc).

The recycling stuff is so confusing that it's too much to handle for little little post. So The Frau is going to list the best resources where you can find help:

Tips from a Bag Lady (by The Frau for Swiss News.)

Living in Zurich (by The American Women’s Club) (This sells for the very Swiss price of CHF 65(!) but might be worth it for all the recycling info--they include a nice chart of every recyclable thing you can imagine and describe where to dispose of it).

Swiss Favorite Pastime: Recycling (by Jessica at Swisstory Blog) (This post even includes a recycling map on Google maps! It’s one of the best blog posts The Frau has seen on Swiss recycling. So she’s not going to compete, just share the wealth and lament the fact that Jessica is now blogging about Australia instead of Switzerland).

Ok, readers, The Frau's collection of PET bottles is about to suffocate her and she really must get to the store to put them in their rightful place. Do you have any trash tips or resources for New and Confused? Or would you like to share any interesting run-ins with Swiss trash/recycling police?


M'dame Jo said...

Recycling in Lausanne is slightly easier: glass is picked at your door once a week and paper twice a week. But we do have to go to the Coop for the PET and keep the metal and aluminum for the monthly pickup.

When I was living in Geneva, there was a recycling unit near the commercial center: everything recycled at the same place. That was convenient.

Chantal said...

Hi M'dame Jo,

Ooh, a recycling place where everything is recycled at the same spot. That would be nice! Glad to hear there are some of those around.

Kristin said...

I love your Dear Frau columns!

Chantal said...

Danke, Kristin!

Dominik said...

Love your blog! I just stumbled upon it when searching for job websites for a friend abroad who is looking for a job in Switzerland :-)

About the recycling. It's different in every canton. I don't know about other cantons but in Bern it's dead easy. In every neighborhood there are recycling spots where you can recycle everything from PET bottles, plastic, batteries, glass, paper etc. It's easy and simple :)

Susan said...

I'm a huge recycler by nature so I have to express frustration at the lack of ease of recycling in Basel. I spent a few weeks in Austria and they recycled EVERYTHING (my friend hadn't thrown out a bag of garbage in months) and it's pick up at the residence. Now, that's incentive. said...

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