Home Living in Switzerland House & Home Recycling in Switzerland
Last update on May 13, 2020
Written by Jessica Cartwright

Switzerland approaches recycling like no other country in the world. Learn how to avoid the scorn of your neighbors when disposing of recyclable goods.

If there’s one thing I am constantly in awe of when it comes to living in Switzerland, it is the commitment to reducing waste. The Swiss take recycling to a whole new level; I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs. For starters, they recycle everything. I almost feel bad if I don’t pick apart my yogurt containers and recycle the aluminum tops and plastic separately. I know, I need to do my part to go green, so I’m trying my best to learn where it all goes.

Recycling in Zurich

Zurich’s list of recyclables is so long that it folds out into 16 pages. Ok, so maybe it’s not that big. But when you have rules and drop-off locations and schedules for recycling, there’s bound to be a lot of details.

For the first time this week, I also saw there are community compost bins. You can take your food waste here for composting for the good of the community. You remember that green goodness in the soil that I talked about, that makes such delicious strawberries; must be the community compost.

Zurich recycles (or has disposal instructions for) the following:

  • Paper and cardboard – Paper gets bundled up monthly and collected. Make sure you tie it up neatly and leave it on the curb on the allocated day. Just put it out there when you see the piles lining up! There are containers for cardboard in most neighborhoods, or you can take the cardboard back to the store of purchase for large items like electronics.
  • Compost – This is genius: take your old banana peels and apple cores to the community compost! I wish I knew what they did with that stuff. Then again, Switzerland sure is green so it probably goes straight back into the soil somewhere.
  • PET bottles – These go back to the store, look for the PET containers either outside or near the beverages in your supermarket.
  • Glass – There are containers for green, brown, and clear glass usually near the supermarket or centrally located in your neighborhood.
  • Tins – Usually containers for tin cans are next to the glass containers. Look for the word ‘Dosen‘.
  • Regular household waste – Goes in the saecke that you buy from the supermarket or post office, some regions use stickers instead. The bags are so tiny – why? Because you’re supposed to recycle, silly, that’s why! But you can get the bags in three sizes.
  • Other – For the rest of it all, there are places to take your old oil, batteries, Styrofoam, electronics, poison, textiles, and even cadavers. Visit your local Gemeide (city hall) for instructions if you did not get them when you moved in.

Photos: Jessica Cartwright of Swisstory