Diccon Bewes: Following the recycling rules
Have you figured out Swiss recycling yet? Diccon comes to the rescue!
Paper recycling in Switzerland is a serious business. You have to do it right or risk public castigation. Today is paper (and card) recycling day in my area of Bern, so I spent part of this morning putting our old paper into neat little parcels, all perfectly shaped and tied up with string. And cutting up the cardboard boxes so that each piece fitted into my tidy bundle. That’s what you have to do to get the stuff taken away.
Woe betide anyone who thinks they can simply leave their recycling on the doorstep in any other fashion. putting it all into a large paper bag, flattening boxes but leaving them too big, not tying the parcels properly so that they fall apart when picked up. Any or all of the above will mean that not only is your recycling left uncollected but most likely it will be given a giant neon sticker saying that it’s unfit for human collection. And that means all your neighbours will know that you can’t play by the recycling rules. The sheer embarrassment!
Now I have heard rumours that in some parts of Switzerland you can get away with putting your paper and card into a paper carrier bag, the type you get from a supermarket. Such anarchy is not tolerated in Bern. Here the bin men love nothing better than plastering those yellow stickers on your badly bundled or inadequately packaged recycling. Name and shame, that’s their game, as this picture shows (not my recycling, I hasten to add).
Recycling the proper way is seen as a civic duty rather than a personal choice. And such pressure to conform means that you soon learn to follow the rules. The council sends each household an annual recycling collection calendar, and even sends a text reminder the night before collection day, so that you put it outside on the right day. We wouldn’t want those bundles, however perfectly shaped and tied they are, to be lying around for too long. That wouldn’t do at all.
Of course paper & card (which by the way doesn’t include washing powder boxes; they have to go in the normal rubbish) aren’t the only things that get recycled here. The Swiss are champions at recycling across the board, whether it’s glass or metal or PET plastic. Or batteries, where they manage a rate of 71%, compared to only 3% in Britain. Or even graves..
So maybe having such strict rules isn’t such a bad thing. If it helps save the world, then I can live with that. And I have grown rather fond of my regular sessions with paper and string.
Diccon grew up in Britain but now lives in Bern. He has spent the last seven years grappling with German grammar, overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue and exploring parts of Switzerland he never knew existed. And eating lots of chocolate. He is the author of the bestselling book Swiss Watching.
Photo credit: epSos.de (recycling bins).
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