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Plainclothes rubbish police blitz small Swiss town

Police in the town of Grenchen in canton Solothurn have hailed the results of the first-ever operation dedicated to catching people in the act of littering.

Plainclothes rubbish police blitz small Swiss town
File photo: Depositphotos

Four police officers handed out a total of 25 fines of 40 Swiss francs (€35.40) during the two-day blitz in early May, local police chief Christian Ambühl told the Grenchner Tagblatt newspaper.

“Almost everyone picked up their rubbish and paid the fine without objecting. In most cases, it was just thoughtlessness,” he said.

Read also: Swiss canton introduces 300-franc fine for littering

After the success of the recent operation, police are now looking at more deploying rubbish patrols in future – partly to raise public awareness of the problem but also to help clean up the town's image.

Grenchen already has measures in place to clean up its streets.

As in many Swiss towns, rubbish must be disposed of in official rubbish bags or by attaching municipal tax stickers to other non-standard bags to show the relevant charge has been paid.

Some people try and get around the associated costs by dumping their garbage bags illegally.

But in the case of notorious serial offenders, authorities go through rubbish bags left on the street looking for a name or an address. Around ten to 15 times a year, they are able to identify a rubbish offender. In these cases, the fine is 100 francs.

Read also: 20 telltale signs you have gone native in Switzerland

In what can be a game of cat and mouse, however, some people cut out addresses on envelopes before putting them in their rubbish bags.

One such offender in Grenchen was only caught after a special surveillance camera was set up by police.

An industrial centre with relatively high unemployment, Grenchen was last year the subject of a controversial documentary aired by Swiss public broadcaster SRF. 

The documentary called The Silent Majority saw the town depicted as centre of voter apathy and “the shadow side of globalization”.

Many locals felt the film was unfair and that the interviews it contained were unrepresentative.

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RUBBISH

Cardboard recycling slip-up costs Zurich resident dear

Failing to tie up your paper and cardboard recycling properly can result in a hefty fine if you happen to live in the city of Zurich.

Cardboard recycling slip-up costs Zurich resident dear
Londondeposit/Depositphotos

A resident of Wiedikon was fined 270 francs by the city authorities after failing to tie a string around the cardboard she left out for collection, the Blick newspaper reported.

She was threatened with two days in jail if she failed to pay within a month.

The angry resident told SRF radio’s Espresso consumer programme she had received a fine for “failure to observe the collection time for recyclable materials” seven months after her recycling ‘offence’.

Although she had disposed of her old cardboard neatly, placing smaller items inside a larger box before leaving it outside her house for collection, she had failed to tie it up.

When she returned home in the evening, the cardboard was still there. She assumed the fine resulted from the fact that the bundle was left sitting on the street.

Zurich’s waste and recycling authority, ERZ, defended the fine in comments to the radio programme.

“It says on all our information sheets and on the ERZ website and app that cardboard must be folded and secured with a string,” a spokeswoman said.

Compared with other big cities in German-speaking Switzerland, Zurich takes a tough line on those violating recycling regulations, Blick said.

It said that in most other cities the authorities would put stickers on incorrectly bundled cardboard that they refused to collect.

In Schaffhausen and St Gallen the fine for incorrectly placed recycling is 100 francs.