I feel really guilty. We didn’t recycle hardly ever before we moved to Switzerland because they don’t do it in our neighborhood. We still don’t have it here, but the problem is, people are tightwads in our neighborhood, and apparently adding recycling would add something like $5 a month to everyone’s trash bill. They’d probably have a fit about it. Plus, there are quite a few retired/fixed income folks here.
When we lived in Switzerland, we recycled everything for several reasons. First, they charge your trash by how much you throw away. The system where we lived is that you buy these stickers. A sheet of 10 stickers cost about $13. For very large bags of trash (65 L, I think) you used two stickers. For your average bags (35 L), just one sticker, and for smaller bags, half a sticker. Next to the trashbins at our apartment complex was a bin for compost material. On designated days of the month, you could leave your paper (carefully bundled in strict regulated size piles) in the trash area.
Here’s what one sticker looks like, though the picture is a bit fuzzy probably to keep people from copying it. You would get a whole sheet of these, same size as a piece of paper that you get from your printer. They are as wide as the page, and yes, they are wavy on the edges.
If you didn’t have a sticker on your trash (on rare occasions, folks would try to pry off a sticker and put it on their own trash, or people just didn’t put a sticker on it for whatever reason), there is a sort of garbage police. Some poor sucker is paid to go through your trash and find out who they are so you can fine you. First, though, they usually put an orange sticker on the offending trash and leave it outside the bin, giving you the chance to put a sticker on it and make amends.
I understand in Zurich, the system is slightly different. Instead of buying stickers, you had to buy a specific trashbag. If you didn’t use a Zurich trashbag, you would get a fine. I think that might be a bum deal, though, because what if your trashbag breaks? Then you are out a buck fifty (or however much it cost).
The Swiss recycle EVERYTHING! On either side of our complex (it was really big), and dotted throughout the city were small recycling centers that had bins in them for glass (green, white, and brown), batteries, cooking oil, and aluminum. They were very clean and emptied frequently. If you had large items, there were designated recyling centers that had a bin for those, and they were often fixed up and sold at resale shops. A few times a year there was a textile collection, where you could donate old clothes, sheets, etc. Useable clothing was given to charity or put in resale shops benefiting charity. Clothing and cloth items that weren’t up to snuff were somehow processed into cleaning rags.
However… there were rules in place for the recycling as well. Being a quiet country, no one wants to hear the clang of bottles as they smash into bins. Outside of each recycling center hours were posted. Keep in mind that these were basically small covered areas about the size of a garage in the US that were lined with big square metal bins, and open to the air except for a bit of covering over the top, so the noise really carried. And they were usually located in convenient residential areas. Usually the available times for depositing your recycling was 7AM to 6PM Monday through Saturday (I think – it has been a few months). Sunday is quiet day and a day of rest, which I’ll have to elaborate on in another post.
The trash that was collected was burned in a clean way, and the methane collected from it was used to power homes. Apparently the Swiss are so efficient at all of this that other countries pay them to reuse/recycle/turn into methane their trash! We were so amazed at all the things we heard and saw with how incredible their trash systems worked! And I felt so guilty over how much we threw away before. If we had used cloth diapers, we probably would have only taken out our trash once or twice a month while we lived there, since hardly anything got thrown away. Also, packaging is less than in the US for food items, etc.
Anywho… after that long ramble… we now recycle cardboard, newspaper, plastic, glass, and cooking oil. We have a bin in the garage. Everything gets rinsed before going into the bucket. When it gets full (about once every third week), I take it up to the recycling center in Conroe near the Dr. Pepper plant.
I am going to petition my neighbors and my home owners association to see if we can’t get recycling in our neighborhood, but it won’t be easy. But when you think about how much goes into our landfills that could be recycled, really think about it, it is just common sense.
Oh, and I also have bags (most of which I bought in Switzerland) that I take with me grocery shopping. I’m bad that I don’t always remember to take them in the store with me, though. In Switzerland you had to pay for bags (just .30 rappen, or about a quarter) for a paper bag, but most people brought their own. You also bag all of your own groceries, and most people go shopping about once or twice a week, for the freshest goods (and because most kitchens/pantries/fridges are the size of a dollhouse!).
We moved lived in Switzerland for 18 months, and just moved back to Texas at the very end of 2009. I first drafted this post before we left.