It's well-known that the Swiss are keen on recycling: a recent report showed they recycle more than any other European country. But nowadays there is more to recycling than simply returning your bottles, or collecting newspapers.This content was published on February 4, 2000 - 17:39
It's well-known that the Swiss are keen on recycling: a recent report showed they recycle more than any other European country. But nowadays there is more to recycling than simply returning your bottles, or collecting newspapers.
Switzerland can justly be proud of its record on recycling: 50 per cent of household waste is re-processed and used again. Canton Berne is especially proud of its record: 90 per cent of glass and almost 80 per cent of paper goes for recycling.
Holland is close behind with 45 per cent. But languishing at the bottom of the table is Britain, where only eight per cent of household waste is recycled.
So why is Switzerland at the top of European recycling league? Here are some reasons:
- The Swiss parliament, along with many of the public buildings in the capital, Berne, is heated from the energy generated by the city's garbage incinerators.
- The first battery recycling plant in the world opened in Switzerland in 1992. It extracts the heavy metals from old batteries and returns them to industry for re-use. And there is no toxic waste at the end of the process.
- The PET plastic drinks bottle is the recycling success story of the past decade. It's made of a plastic that produces no toxic fumes when incinerated.
- Unlike glass, plastic bottles cannot be heat-cleaned. In Switzerland, bottles are broken down and used for packaging chocolate or meat. The material can even be used to make synthetic carpets and clothing.
- Migros, Switzerland's biggest retail outlet, was the first store to do away with cardboard boxes for toothpaste. Consequently, it saves hundreds of tonnes of
cardboard every year.
- Migros has also achieved a 96 per cent recycling quota for its glass and plastic bottles, by offering a deposit on every single bottle it sells.
- Under Swiss law, stores which sell electronic goods like televisions, hi-fis and computers are obliged to accept old equipment from their customers, and make sure it goes to the proper recycling plant.
Recycling in Switzerland has not been an unbroken record of successes, though.
A Swiss failure in recycling was the attempt to recycle the aluminium foil around chocolate - it was simply too expensive. Instead, Swiss chocolate manufacturers replaced the aluminium foil with more environmentally-friendly plastic packaging.
Also, the Swiss recycle only half of their batteries, and with each man, woman, and child in Switzerland using about one kilogramme of batteries per year, that's a lot of batteries being thrown away.
A full audio report on recycling in Switzerland can be heard by clicking on the Swissinfo's right-hand panel.
By Imogen Foulkes
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