The biggest shock I had when I moved to Switzerland was that I couldn’t recycle all the plastic stuff I use. For example, yogurt cups, bags from bread, ham, snacks … and I could go on. For the first two weeks, I washed every yogurt cup, plastic package and put them into the same bag as plastic bottles going to the recycling bin. I was proud of myself. Then my new roommate finally moved into the apartment, and she was like “Eva what is this? You can’t put this yogurt cup and other plastic bags in the plastic recycling bin.” You can imagine my face when I heard this. How is that possible, I’m in Switzerland, everything here should be splendid, adequate, organised and eco-friendly. I tried to find the information online and I was hoping that there would be the opportunity to recycle all the plastics garbage, but I found nothing about the other plastics. Journalist Susan Misicka from swissinfo.ch tried to save all her plastic garbage which ended filling four shopping regular bag which are about 15/20L big. But not even half of her plastic garbage could be recycled. When we look at the data about how much Swiss people actually recycle, it seems good. So, I think if they could recycle other plastic garbage they would do that too. For now, we can hope that there will be some changes to the recycling system.
As the diagram shows in the figure 1, 83% of PET bottles returned. Currently the Swiss collect about 80,000 tons of plastic for recycling (that includes: PET bottles, milk, shampoo, detergent, and other high-quality bottles). But if there would be a possibility to recycle more plastic garbage, Switzerland could recycle an additional 112,000 tons of plastic per year.
Another source says that 1,000,000 tons or 125 kg of plastics per person are consumed in Switzerland yearly. When we look more closely, approximately 250,000 tons of plastics are used to make long-lasting products (for example plastic window frames), another 780,000 tons are disposed of as waste, of which over 80% (about 650,000 tons) is incinerated, to produce energy, and about 6% is used in cement plants as surrogate fuel. Roughly 80,000 tons is recycled. As illustrated on the bar chart in the figure 2 developed by EuropePlastics, Conversio Market & Strategy GmbH, we can say there is no plastic waste.
But I’m still puzzled about all the plastic garbage in a regular bin, such as the dirty plastic cups from yogurt, bags from food, etc. Article about Plastic published on website of Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) also talks about the energy needed to process all the plastic garbage and asks if it’s still worth recycling it. The worldwide graph shows us which sectors produce the most plastic products. “Packaging” is the most significant part – 141 million tons. The total number of plastic products is 302 million tons. It seems like an excessive amount, but if you imagine all the plastic packaging we use every day, it’s no surprise. Even if we can’t recycle all the plastic garbage we produce, we should think about what we are buying and reduce plastic consumption to the minimum. For example: avoid buying fruits and vegetables in plastic bags, and if we have a plastic bag, we should try to use it as many times as possible. And finally, recycle as much as we can.
C. Pisani, S. Misicka., 2018. SWI SWISSINFO.CH. [Online] Available at: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/sustainability_why-don-t-the-swiss-recycle-more-plastic-/44073776
FOEN, Federal Office for the Environment., 2017. [Online] Available at: https://www.bafu.admin.ch/bafu/en/home/topics/waste/guide-to-waste-a-z/plastics.html
Hoi, G. W. S., 2016. SWI swissinfo.ch. [Online] Available at: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/fact-check_is-switzerland-the-world-champion-of-recycling/42382610
PlasticEurope, 2017. Plastics – the Facts 2017. [Online] Available at: https://www.plasticseurope.org/application/files/5715/1717/4180/Plastics_the_facts_2017_FINAL_for_website_one_page.pdf