Swiss supermarkets to charge for plastic bags

Two of Switzerland’s biggest supermarkets will introduce charges for single-use plastic bags this year, after parliament vetoed a total ban.

Swiss supermarkets to charge for plastic bags
Photo: Migros

On Thursday the upper house of parliament quashed a bill proposing a universal ban on plastic bags across the country, preferring that shops come to a voluntary agreement on the subject.

The proposed ban had already been dismissed by the lower house back in May.

Now the Swiss supermarket giants Migros and Coop have taken matters into their own hands, saying they will start to charge for single-use plastic bags in an attempt to reduce the number used by 80 percent.

In a statement on Thursday, Coop said: “Tests and surveys carried out by Coop show that four out of five customers would give up plastic bags if they had to pay for them.”

As a consequence, from October 24th this year Coop will trial a charge of five centimes per bag in ten of its Zurich shops, ahead of a roll out to 850 stores across the country by spring 2017.

Migros is following suit, rolling out the five-centime charge from November 1st in all its shops.

The supermarket had already been charging for bags in its shops in the canton of Vaud since 2013.

“Customers quickly got used to the change and since, Migros Vaud has been able to considerably reduce its use of plastic bags,” it said in a statement.

Profits from bags sold will go towards external environmental projects, both supermarkets said.

The action by the two supermarkets in is accordance with a voluntary agreement drawn up by the commercial sector which was approved by parliament as an alternative to a total ban.

The agreement applies to single-use plastic bags at the till, not the smaller ones used for fruit and veg.

Back in May, Patrick Marty, spokesman for Swiss commerce organization IG DHS, told The Local that voluntary action on the part of supermarkets would be a better solution anyway.

“In our opinion we don’t need a specific law,” he said.

“If it’s possible to achieve the objectives in a voluntary manner, then a law won’t be necessary. For us, the traders, it’s an effective solution.”

Switzerland lags behind some other countries in Europe on the issue.

Last year the UK banned retailers with more than 250 employees from offering free plastic bags, though customers can still buy them.

And in July this year France formally banned single-use plastic bags although many supermarkets had stopped offering them under a 2002 voluntary agreement.

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Can you go shopping from Switzerland to neighbouring countries?

Are Swiss residents allowed to go shopping in border regions now, and under what conditions?

A sign on the Swiss border with France.
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The so-called ‘shopping tourism’ is very popular among Switzerland’s public, as food and many other goods are cheaper in neighbour countries. 

At certain times during the Covid-19 pandemic, crossing the border for non-essential reasons, including shopping, was banned, but far fewer restrictions are in place now.

This is what you should know before you go shopping across the border(s):


As the Lombardy region of Italy is in the red zone since Monday due to a surge in the number of Covid cases, Ticino officials asked federal authorities to strengthen controls at the border.

They noted that “already a year ago, Ticino suffered the first pandemic wave precisely because of the free movement of people from Lombardy”.

This measure, intended primarily to stop Italians from coming into Switzerland, could also impact Swiss residents returning from a shopping trip.

However, Karin Keller Sutter, the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, said Switzerland is not planning to implement systematic checks at the Italian borders.

So while theoretically a jaunt across the border is possible, a ‘red zone’ classification means that shops, along with restaurants, schools and museums, are closed.

This is also a situation in Piedmont, another region that borders Ticino.

The only people with unrestricted access both ways are Italian cross-border workers who are employed in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Which of Switzerland’s neighbouring countries can you enter – and what are the rules?


Swiss residents are not prohibited from entry into France and do not have to quarantine. But arrivals to France will need to provide a negative test result which is not older than 72 hours. 

However, cross-border commuters and people who reside within 30 kilometres of a border area do not need to provide evidence of a test. The evidence that can prove that your residence is within the authorised distance includes an ‘attestation de domicile’ from your local commune or an official envelope with your address on it.

But some shoppers have said that the 30-km requirement is not systematically checked or enforced, because smaller border crossings are unmanned on the French and Swiss side.

In fact, Swiss residents go to France not just for shopping but also to get Covid tests, as they are cheaper than in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Why are Swiss residents going to France to get tested?

Keep in mind too that France has a 6 pm curfew, so you have to return to Switzerland before that time.


Current regulations require a 10 to 14-day quarantine for all arrivals, including from Switzerland.

The only exemptions are for urgent family matters or work, including the cross-border employees.

So no shopping in Austria for the time being.


Travel into Germany from Switzerland is discouraged but not banned. This includes tourist and shopping travel, although tourist accommodation is not allowed to open at present in Germany. 

While you may be allowed to enter, you may also be required to quarantine. 

Whether or not you will have to quarantine depends on which of the 16 German states you are entering. Click here for up to date official information

Both Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the two states closest to Switzerland, do not consider shopping to be a valid ‘exception’ – meaning that anyone entering to go shopping will be required to quarantine, which is a great way to spoil a shopping trip. 

If the German state requires you to quarantine, it will last for ten days but can be ended early from the fifth day with a negative test result. 

People entering from Switzerland must have a negative test result of less than 48 hours and must register online

Anyone who visits the state of Thüringen/Thuringia will need to quarantine on their return to Switzerland

Note: This page was updated on March 16th to reflect the updated policies of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, both of which consider shopping and tourism not to be valid reasons to avoid coronavirus quarantine. 

Editor’s note: Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.