More to rubbish than meets the eye

Two volunteers sift through Swiss household waste Keystone

How much does your rubbish reveal about you? Plenty, say researchers, who are methodically going through garbage bags to find out what the Swiss throw away.

This content was published on May 25, 2002

Rubbish researchers, kitted out in orange overalls and plastic aprons, will be sifting (by hand) through household trash until June, as part of an investigation by the Federal Office for the Environment.

The government is trying to find out what the Swiss throw out, and how much refuse they generate. It is especially keen to see whether the famously fastidious Swiss really separate their rubbish so that things like glass, paper and reusable plastic are recycled.

Recently a second round of sifting started with 16 volunteers separating Swiss household waste into different categories such as textiles, cardboard and organic matter. They spend five hours a day rifling through garbage.

Range of garbage sources

The rubbish bags come from 34 different communities across the country, ranging from the inner cities to rural towns and villages.

The project, in conjunction with the Lucerne-based environment advisers, Ökomobil, got underway in November 2001.

The first findings show that more than quarter of all household waste was made up of biodegradable waste, 16 per cent was paper, which could have been recycled, and 14.5 per cent was non-essential packaging material, such as boxes.

Although these are preliminary findings, the rubbish sifters are 100 per cent positive about one thing- in areas where consumers have to pay a fee every time they want a rubbish bag collected, the volume of waste per bag is greater and more tightly packed than in areas where garbage collection is free.

swissinfo with agencies

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