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How the Swiss Achieve Zero Waste

Source: Zero Waste Home Book by Bea Johnson

Switzerland had one of the highest rates of waste in Europe. In 2013, the country produced 5.7 tons of urban waste, around 700 kilos per person. A strong Swiss zero-waste movement has sprung up over the past several years that seeks to change this.

None of the nation's urban waste ends up in landfills, according to the Swiss Federal office for the environment. Around half is recycled and the rest is incinerated to produce energy.

Founded in 2015, the ZeroWaste Switzerland Association strives to change consumer habits and is advocating legislation that would cut down on the production of waste in Switzerland. The association has created an interactive map of hundreds of like-minded businesses around the country: shops, restaurants, bulk stores, second-hand stores and more.

Zero waste shops offer organic products that are locally sourced when possible, often sold in reusable containers. One such shop called Coop claims to have reduced or ecologically optimized over 19,000 tons of packaging material since 2012 and aims to reduce or optimize a further 8,000 tons by 2020.

Zero Waste Switzerland follows the 5R model, and the rest of us should, too:

Refuse (what is not needed) Think of unnecessary objects from advertising leaflets to free samples, paper receipts and single-use plastics. Refusing is a way to reflect on our habits as consumers and stop the demand for disposible products.

Reduce (what is needed) Focus on reducing your volume of consumption. Reduce use of the car, the amount of packaging you buy, the amount of documents you print, the number of electrical appliances in your home, etc.

Re-use (what is consumed, whenever possible) Get a set of reusable utensils made from sustainable, long-lasting materials (glass, bamboo or metal instead of plastic). Purchase second-hand equipment and clothing. Repair things when possible, instead of purchasing replacements.

Recycle (what cannot be refused, reduced or reused) Recycling is the last stage when we have attempted all of the above. After refusing, reducing and reusing, there hopefully will not be much to recycle!

Rot (compost the rest) Compost peels of fruits and vegetables, leftovers from meals and any other organic waste. They decompose naturally and return their nutrients to the soil.



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