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More cardboard, less newspaper Swiss recycling plant opens amid market changes

A recycling facility for paper

Swiss consumers are recycling more cardboard and fewer newspapers because of online reading and shopping habits.

(Alpabern AG)

As Switzerland inaugurates its newest and largest plant for paper recycling, the share of cardboard is on the rise because the Swiss are reading fewer newspapers and ordering more parcels online.

Recycling Cityexternal link, which opened near Bern on Thursday, expects to sort 70,000 tons of paper and cardboard per year. In addition, the 7,500m2 facility – covered in 1,400 solar panels – will offer secure processing of shredded documents. The plant employs about 50 people. 

Yet the recycling market is changing, according to Ulrich Egger of Alpabern, the company that designed Recycling City. 

“Because of online shopping we get increasingly more packaging. And unfortunately, also because of the internet, we get fewer newspapers,” Egger told Swiss public radio, SRFexternal link. The market price of old paper keeps the industry profitable in Switzerland, but Egger declined to share any sales figures. 

However, Switzerland has just two factories that convert old paper into new. One of them, Utzenstorf Papier near Bern, is closing at the end of the year, leaving just Perlen Papier near Lucerne. Egger seemed confident that the remaining paper could be sold to other Swiss dealers, or exported along with the bulk of the cardboard, for which there are too few Swiss takers.

Of the expected 70,000 tons of old material sorted, Recycling City predicts that 30% will be cardboard and 70% paper.

Swiss paper statistics 

Consumption of paper and cardboard in Switzerland has been declining steadily over the years. While each person used 204kg of processed trees in 2012, the figure was down to 188kg in 2016 – when the total national consumption added up to nearly 1.6 million tons. 

Of that, the Swiss recycled nearly 1.3 million tons of paper and cardboard last year, or 152kg per person. It is common for Swiss municipalities to collect bundles of newspapers, magazines and cardboard left on the curb; other communities have large bins where residents can drop off loose papers and boxes. School and scout groups also collect old paper to earn extra cash. 

More than half of Switzerland’s paper production needs can be covered by the paper recycled in the country.

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