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Environment For Members

How to sell, recycle, or (safely) throw away your stuff in Switzerland

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
How to sell, recycle, or (safely) throw away your stuff in Switzerland
Recycling bins in Geneva. Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP

Whether you're moving house or just having a clear-out, at some point in Switzerland you'll find yourself needing to get rid of things. Here's how to do it in a climate-friendly way.

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Re-selling

If you’ve spent yet another season not wearing that bright yellow dress you bought three summers ago, maybe it’s time to ask yourself: Will I ever wear this? Or in the words of Japanese organising champ Marie Kondo: Does it bring me joy? If not, the answer is simple – and eco-friendly: resell.

In Switzerland, there are many ways to resell used items that are still in good condition, be it clothes or accessories, and make some money (and room) on the way. 

Online retailers, such as Secondhandkiste and Kleiderberg, let you sell your items hassle-free from the comfort of your home. Simply sign up online, post your item with a decent picture, ship your clothes directly to the customer and await payment. It’s that easy.

If you’d prefer to use your selling skills in person, you can also try your luck at flea markets – though you will only be able to do so on select days.

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In Zurich, the MÄDELSFLOHMARKT is a great place for fashionistas to turn their unwanted clothes into cash from 9.30 am. The market itself runs from 11 am to 4 pm and sells female clothes exclusively – hence, the name. We suggest following the website for updates on dates and location.

But it doesn’t have to be clothes. If you’ve spent a few hours rummaging through your garage or attic, you may find all sorts of quirky items you wish to sell on – and the good news is, you can. The best place to do this is at your local antique shop (if your item fits the bill), or by setting up your own stall at a flea market.

There are plenty flea markets in Switzerland.

There are plenty flea markets in Switzerland. Photo by Nikola Đuza on Unsplash

In Basel-City, you can set up shop (for the day) at the Flohmarkt Petersplatz for just 20 francs. If you’re in the Geneva region, the Plaine de Plainpalais is a popular market for second-hand goods, while bargain hunters frequent Lausanne's the Place Chauderon for the best deals.

Donate

If making money isn’t your top priority and you’d rather make someone’s day, then you can donate your used or unwanted goods with local charities, such as Caritas, Helfen Sie Helfen, or the Heilsarmee (Salvation Army). These organisations often accept used clothes, hygiene articles, children’s toys, bedding as well as hospital furniture. You can always ring them up beforehand to double check.

Facebook can also be a good place to give to people in your community (search spenden, donation, or donazione, and type in the name of your neighbourhood or add it to Marketplace with a 0 francs price tag). You may also want to consider stopping by your local municipality for information on shops, markets and other donation opportunities in your area.

One person's trash is another's treasure, so it's always worth checking if someone can make use of your old belongings before you send them to landfill, even if they seem worthless to you and aren't in a condition that charity shops would accept. One way to do this is to make a post on the internet, such as on Ricardo, Anibis, or Tutti, advertising your items. You never know who might need it.

READ ALSO: Brockis - What you need to know about shopping second-hand in Switzerland

Recycle

Switzerland has one of the highest levels of waste generated by the population in the world. Between 1970 and 2013, the annual production of waste more than doubled, from 309 kg to 707 kg per person. This increase is partly due to economic growth.

But the Swiss have also become world champions in recycling. In Switzerland, 53 percent of municipal waste is currently recycled.

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Luckily, recycling in Switzerland is very straightforward with most local municipalities having (free of charge for individuals) recycling centres nearby. While paper and cardboard are often picked up from your front door, you can check your local recycling centre’s website for more information on what sort of junk can be recycled before you pack a carload of it for a trip there.

However, typically, your local centres should accept old books, bikes, furniture, household appliances in addition to more common waste such as empty glass bottles, cans, and cardboard.

READ ALSO: What are Switzerland's rules for waste disposal and recycling?

Recycling your empty bottles needs to be done in Switzerland.

Recycling your empty bottles needs to be done in Switzerland. Photo by Aleksandr Kadykov on Unsplash

Old clothes and textiles

If you happen to have old towels, blankets or bedding you no longer have any use for, those can be donated to animal shelters across Switzerland.

If you have damaged clothes and are wondering whether there is a way to recycle the fabric, unfortunately there are no recycling points for damaged textiles in Switzerland just yet. However, you could always refashion the item into a blanket and in turn, donate it to a dog shelter.

If a damaged clothing item has slipped in with your undamaged donated clothes, don’t worry. According to Swiss Recycling, damaged clothing items made of cotton or cotton-blended fabrics are made into cleaning rags in various production facilities throughout Switzerland after they're accidentally tossed in your local clothing bank. However, don’t use this as motivation to purposely throw in damaged goods with decent clothing items as this results in unnecessary labour and many non-cotton items can't be repurposed.

Non-general waste

Let’s be honest, whenever we don’t know where to recycle the junk we’re looking to get rid of, the general waste bin looks rather tempting. Yet, it is important to resist this temptation as some waste should under no circumstances be tossed in with your general trash as this could prove hazardous to the environment.

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Some common household items like lightbulbs, paint, medicine, cosmetics and cleaning fluids are all hazardous to throw away with your household rubbish, so they need to be disposed of carefully.

In Switzerland, goods that can’t be disposed of with the general trash or (oftentimes) recycled at your local centre are referred to as Sonderabfall, déchets spéciaux, and rifiuti speciali (hazardous waste). You can find a complete list of the items that need to be disposed of carefully on Swiss Recycling.

Individuals can usually return small amounts of hazardous waste free of charge to the appropriate municipal collection points, on special collection days in the municipality or canton, or in specialist shops. Exact information on this can be found in the municipal waste calendar or from the cantonal specialist office for waste and hazardous waste.

Medicines, however, can be returned to pharmacies and drugstores. Simply drop by with your unused or out-of-date medicine and ask the sales assistant for help.

Commercial hazardous waste is to be disposed of by specialised hazardous waste companies such as AVAG or Remondis.

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