Swiss CO2 emissions: Small country, big footprint

Why don’t the Swiss recycle more plastic?

Most plastics carry a recycling label, but few are convenient to recycle in Switzerland. For 30 days, journalist Susan Misicka saved all of her plastic garbage. She filled four shopping bags, but found that not even half of the waste could be recycled. Is it as bad as it sounds? (

Carlo Pisani and Susan Misicka

Currently, the Swiss collect 80,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling – mainly PET drink bottles, plus milk, shampoo, detergent and other high-quality bottles. In theory, Switzerland could recycle an additional 112,000 tonnes of plastic per year. Put another way, everyone in Switzerland could collect and recycle another 14kg of plastic per year. But there is no federal system and few processing plants for recycling plastic in Switzerland. 

Still, consumers are eager to contribute to a circular economy, a point illustrated by the 83% recycling rate of PET beverage bottles. The nationwide campaign to collect these started in 1990; today there are more than 50,000 PET drop-off points across Switzerland. 

Five years ago, prompted by consumers eager to recycle more than just PET and milk bottles, Swiss supermarkets began collecting all types of plastic bottles.

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