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Reader question: How can I dispose of electric appliances in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 20 Oct, 2022 Updated Thu 20 Oct 2022 13:47 CEST
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Don't throw this broken smartphone into trash. Photo by Laura Rivera on Unsplash

Whether it’s an old microwave or broken vacuum cleaner, sooner or later you will have to get rid your home of electric equipment. There are rules about how you can (and can’t) do this in Switzerland.

There used to be a time when broken appliances were repaired and reused, but this is no longer done, at least not frequently. Most of the time it is cheaper to buy a replacement than to have old appliances fixed.

That is why we live in the so-called ‘disposable’ or ‘throw-away’ society — a real catastrophe for the environment.

You may be tempted to just toss away smaller items like hairdryers, or hand-held blenders and mixers, into the trash. But that is not the proper, or environmentally friendly, way of disposal.The reason is that electronics contain toxic chemicals that can, if not properly disposed of, leak and contaminate groundwater and soil.

In fact, this action is punishable by a fine (the amount of which is determined by each commune).

And if you think nobody will ever know, you are wrong.

True, chances that you will be found out are slim, but not totally non-existent: municipal workers have the right to go through trash bags to see what’s in them, and will look for clues therein to identify (and fine) garbage offenders.

So what do you do with all the electrical equipment that you no longer use?

This being Switzerland, where the so-called “recycling culture” is highly developed, each commune has various collection / drop off points for electronics.

Obviously, smaller items are easier to transport to a collection venue than large, bulky, and heavy ones. Unless you have a very big car and lots of muscle, you will not be able to carry refrigerators or washing machines yourself — nor are you expected to.

When you buy a new fridge or another large and heavy appliance, you will have it delivered. The old one will be taken away (probably for extra fee) to a recycling location.

Smaller electrical and electronic appliances are easier to dispose of because you can carry them yourself. There are two ways of doing this.

Items like microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and any other small appliance, can be brought to any store selling products of the same type. Shops have an obligation to take back all such appliances free of charge,  regardless of whether they had been purchased there or not.

Your other option is to take these items to your community’s collection point / recycling centre, which have special places just for electrical appliances.

All communes make such facilities available to their residents — not just for electrical items but for all kinds of trash big and small, including PET bottles, paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, batteries, as well as organic waste / compost. 

If you don’t know where your nearest collection point is, this map will help.

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

If you are not sure which devices are considered as electric, basically it is any equipment that has a plug: refrigerators; freezers; air conditioners, TVs and other entertainment equipment, gardening and fitness machines; computers; and telecommunications.

You will find that the collection points have special bins not just for appliances and electronics, but separate ones for electric wires and plugs as well.



Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/10/20 13:47

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