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Opinion It’s time for a national littering fine in Switzerland

Cans on the pavement

Fines will work if they are big enough, Paul Douglas Lovell believes

(Keystone)

After observing and cleaning up industrial litter near his home, Swiss resident Paul Douglas Lovell believes Switzerland needs to enact a nationwide fine for not properly disposing of trash.

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Ask any tourist and they’ll describe Switzerland as a very clean country. They may then add that it is also very expensive. I moved here from the concrete-grey environment that is London so I never take the beauty of this country for granted and am truly grateful to be here. I’m proud of this place I call home. But I’m bothered by one thing: industrial littering.

Paul Douglas Lovell is a UK indie author who has been a Swiss resident since 2000. His work can be found on Amazon and other online bookstores.

(Paul Douglas Lovell)

My home is surrounded by hills and trees, with a babbling brook running through the middle of the village and a small industrial zone at its edge. A typically unspoilt slice of the Swiss landscape is on my doorstep. So when I’m out walking the dog and I see litter dotting the hedges along my route, it irks me. If I don’t pick it up, I’ll scowl at it every time I pass by, until it’s gone, either by my hand, someone else’s or perhaps simply carried away by the wind. 

Most of it is coming from the car parks around the industrial area, where locals rarely go, Plastic coffee cups from a drinks machine, cigarette packets and the like. Worse still are their bins overflowing with plastic only metres away from the stream, which links to the Rhine and eventually the sea.
 
By now we’ve all seen photos of the oceans of plastic plaguing this world. These disturbing images have rallied many people into action, which is all well and good. There are city initiatives on various scales being implemented. The banning of single-use plastics and on-the-spot fines for littering are being enforced in many places. It’s fair to say that the average consumer is aware of the world’s plight with regard to plastic waste and is willing to do their bit to help. However, it’s time to up the ante if we are ever to get on top of this problem.

I suppose money is the only real solution to saving the planet. Fine them, hit them where it hurts: the pocket. Although some cantons have issued their own penalties, sadly in 2016 Swiss MPs voted against national on-the-spot fines of up to CHF300 ($300) for littering. The proposal lost by a small margin of 96 against to 86 for. I assume that that law would have mainly penalised the general public rather than businesses, yet most of the opposition came from farmers and right-wing parties.

Fines will work, if they are big enough. My sister was fined for dropping a cigarette butt in the street, and she hasn’t done it since. In some US residential communities, canine DNA databases are used to fine dog walkers who don’t pick up after their pet and, since implemented, they have seen a vast reduction in offences. In my opinion, these ideas would make a beneficial difference to our environment. If folks know in advance that a hefty penalty will be issued, they won’t do it. 

A bag neat a stream
(Paul Douglas Lovell)

I went out to take a few photos for this article. Brazenly, I took my pictures and collected the plastic whilst one of the workers watched me. He did acknowledge with a shrug that the trash was from the bins nearby but did not take it from me, and when I passed by again an hour later, had done nothing to contain the overflow. Had he been aware of a company fine, he may have picked up. I won’t name company names as I have to live around here. Still, I secretly do hope they see this article and act accordingly. 

Industrial litter
(Paul Douglas Lovell )

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch.


Opinion series

swissinfo.ch publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.

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