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What Geneva residents should know about new compulsory waste sorting

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 5 Sep, 2022 Updated Mon 5 Sep 2022 16:17 CEST
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Geneva will get tough on those who don't sort and recycle their trash. Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP

The Swiss canton of Geneva is the first in the country to make waste sorting compulsory for all residents and businesses. Here's a run through of what you need to know.

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This legislation, adopted on Friday by the Geneva parliament, introduces several reforms, including the sorting obligation for households, businesses, and public entities.

It aims at at reducing the amount of waste generated in the canton, improving recycling, and disposing of trash in an environmentally friendly manner.  The initial objective is to lower incinerable waste by 25 percent within the next three years.

Geneva is the only canton in Switzerland that has not required the use of taxed trash bags, as every other city and canton has. These are either specially designated bags, priced according to their size (35, 60, or 100 litres) and place of residence, or a sticker to be affixed to a bag.  Taxes collected from the sale of these bags are used for municipal waste management.

However, Geneva has relied "on the voluntary collaboration of people" and has not required the bag tax, "which represents a high cost for households and whose effects in other cantons have not been convincing over time", cantonal authorities said in a press release.   

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In Geneva, the only rule is that “household waste must be placed in sturdy, watertight and closed bags meeting the OKS standard and then deposited in a container".

OKS garbage bags are tested and certified for quality and resistance in accordance with the guidelines of the Swiss Association of Municipal Infrastructure.

However, as everywhere in the country, only non-recyclables can be bagged and tossed in the container; everything else should be sorted and properly recycled.

READ MORE: Trash talk: What are the rules for garbage disposal in Switzerland?

What are the new rules?

The new legislation not only makes sorting and disposing of waste mandatory for everyone, but it will also ban single-use plastic, including disposable tableware and non-recyclable containers for take-away food — the only canton so far to take such measures.

Also, all plastic bags available in stores, including those intended for fruit and vegetables, will no longer be free of charge.

Additionally, all shops must provide special space for the customers to sort the packaging and leave waste on the premises. “This obligation should encourage retailers to drastically reduce the packaging of goods”, according to the canton.

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What changes will you have to make?

While up to now you might have skipped on the sorting and recycling front, at least some of the time, the new law makes it compulsory everywhere in the canton, so it is no longer a matter of doing it sometimes but not always, and hoping nobody will notice.

These official links tell you what the canton expects you to do to reduce and properly dispose of your household waste.

And if you think any rule-breaking will go unnoticed, it probably will not.

“The noise, weight, smell and shape of the bags are all relevant indicators for assessing the quality of household sorting”, the canton said.

Inspectors will carry out spot checks and offenders will be fined for non-compliance.

While this system already exists in some communities, it is more random. In Geneva, on the other hand, it will become more thorough, as “powers of the municipalities in this area are extended”.

You have, however, some time to get used to the new rule.

Geneva’s Council of State will decide when the new law will enter into law and what the penalties will be.

The ban on the use of single-use plastic , however, will be enacted no later than January 1st, 2025.

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/09/05 16:17

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