What is rubbish – and what isn’t?

Kim Berrendorf
August 14, 2019
Sustainability
What items can be put in general waste, and what items can be recycled? What are the different waste categories anyway? And what are the consequences for the environment? These are questions not often asked. But once you have heard them, you will want to know the answer.

Waste made in Switzerland

Out of sight, out of mind: The average Swiss person throws away roughly 721 kg of waste a year. That is about 2 kg of waste per person per day – a whole heap of rubbish.

The consequences of our disposable society

Our waste constitutes only 3 per cent of the environmental pollution generated per person. Compare this with diet, which accounts for 28 per cent of a person’s environmental footprint, living, which accounts for 19 per cent, and mobility, which accounts for 12 per cent. Nonetheless, waste and waste avoidance or recycling are important topics. Why? Because it is an area that has grown relentlessly, and one that has been left to the individual.

Diet and waste are closely connected

Essensreste auf Tellern

Some 32 per cent of the average rubbish bag is made up of biogenic waste, i.e. food leftovers, etc.

Our waste and our diet are closely interlinked. This becomes drastically clear if you look at the extrapolation of meat waste in our biogenic waste. Now prepare for some shock therapy...

An average of 100,000 animals a year are slaughtered unnecessarily only to be thrown away as leftovers.

Types of waste and consequences for the environment

Switzerland is among the world champions when it comes to waste – but a recycling guru, too. Waste paper, cardboard, glass, aluminium, PET, tin plate, textiles, batteries and electrical scrap: we collect a vast amount of recyclable materials on a consistent basis. Yet still 380,000 tonnes of valuable waste materials end up in our refuse sacks instead of being recycled. There is potential particularly in biomass, only 57 per cent of which is separated and recycled, as well as in all plastics, including PET. Only 11 per cent of this is collected and recycled.

When it comes to benefits to the environment, the separation and recycling of electrical appliances, paper and cardboard, textiles and plastics is particularly important.

A word about plastics

Plastics is the word on everyone’s lips. Quite literally, in fact, given the indirect consumption of microplastics. Plastic waste poses a problem for us primarily because its usage is excessive, not always viable, and ultimately it is not recycled. From an environmental perspective plastics recycling is well worth it. That is why 260 municipalities in Switzerland already offer the separate collection of plastics.

Find out next week what we can recycle, and what Baloise is doing to contribute to avoiding waste and improving waste recycling in part of two of the “What is rubbish – and what isn’t?” special.