Food makes up about a third of all Swiss trash, according to a waste study from the Federal Environment Office. Roughly 31 kilograms of food per person landed in Swiss rubbish bins over the course of a year – up 10% from 20 years ago.
Half of the food thrown out – one-sixth of all Swiss waste – was still good enough to consume when it was thrown away.
Overall, the Swiss got rid of 1.6 million tonnes of garbage in 2012, 8% more than the last time the study was carried out a decade ago. However, garbage produced per person fell from 260 to 206 tonnes.
In addition to food, the Swiss threw away large amounts of paper, glass and other products that could have been re-used. Overall, one-fifth of all garbage produced in 2012 – or 340,000 tonnes – was material that could have been recycled if sorted into proper receptacles.
Pay to throw away
Paying for trash disposal made a difference in garbage volumes, according to the study; in those communities where people must buy garbage bags or pay by weight, each person produced 80 kilograms less in waste over the course of a year.
About 20% of the Swiss population lives in areas without fees for garbage disposal.
Most of Switzerland’s trash is incinerated, and recycling stations allow for separate disposal of aluminium, glass, plastic bottles and paper as well as household items like electronics and batteries. Compost and garden waste disposal is also available.
It’s estimated that one-third of all food produced in Switzerland ultimately goes to waste, a figure on par with the world and other developed countries: overall, about a third of the world’s food ends up as waste, as does a third of all food in the United States and the Britain.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, consumers in rich countries collectively waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
A working group made up of several government offices has been tasked with raising awareness of food waste issues among the Swiss, as well as educating consumers about how best to handle food and keep it fresh.
For its analysis of the nation’s waste, the environment office sorted through 16.5 tonnes of trash bags from 33 communities and separated them into 18 different types of garbage. For the first time, food waste was sorted and carefully analysed. The Swiss waste study has been done since 1982 and is carried out every ten years.