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Environment For Members

Why are garbage bags so expensive in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why are garbage bags so expensive in Switzerland?
This is definitely NOT the Swiss way of garbage disposal. Photo: Pixabay

Like nearly everything else, garbage bags too are expensive in Switzerland, with the cost depending on the community where you live.

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Even if you have become (more or less) accustomed to the cost of living in Switzerland, the price of trash bags may still come as a shock.

You are not alone.

A German social media influencer, who lives in the Zurich area, recently posted a rant on TikTok about the price of garbage bags in her region: 17 francs for a package of ten 35-litre bags.

“It's such a disgrace that they're so expensive,” she said. "In Germany, you pay 35 cents or one euro for 60.”

Her post unleashed many comments, but more about them in a minute.

Meanwhile, let take a look at how much these bags cost in various Swiss regions — and why you have to pay so much just to toss your rubbish away.

‘Polluter pays’ principle

Most communities in Switzerland have introduced either official trash bags (that is, the only ones allowed to be used for garbage disposal), priced according to their size (17, 35, 60, or 100 litres), or a special municipal sticker to be affixed to a bag. 

Taxes collected from the sale of these bags (or stickers) are used for municipal waste management.

The thinking behind the special bags, and their pricing, is based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle — the more expensive the bag is, the higher the incentive to care about the amount of trash you are creating.

This is especially true, as you are not supposed to throw just anything into those bags: they are not intended for recyclables, such as PET bottles, glass, carton, paper, aluminium cans, batteries, and compost, which should be disposed of separately.

And if you think you can get away with stuffing your bag to the rim with items that should be recycled (as those mentioned above), do so at your own risk and peril.

Municipal ‘trash inspectors’ (yes, there is such a job in Switzerland) occasionally examine the contents of garbage bags in their communities.

A number of ‘garbage criminals’ have been nabbed in Switzerland in recent years; fines imposed on them vary from one community to another.

READ ALSO :Why the Swiss government rummages through your garbage

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How much do these bags cost?

The price depends on where you live and the size of the bag (as explained above).

For instance, a pack of ten 35-litre bags costs 19.50 francs in Vaud, 19.95 in Bern, 23 in Basel-City, and 23.50 in Schaffhausen.

You can see prices for various communities, according to the bag size, here.

You may have noticed that Geneva is not included on that list.

That’s because it is the only canton that does not charge for garbage bags; 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.

READ ALSO: What Geneva residents should know about new compulsory waste sorting

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Has Switzerland’s approach been successful?

Various data indicates that the amount of household garbage has decreased, while the overall recycling rate went up considerably.

Now, let's back to the German Tik Toker

Though many Swiss routinely complain about the cost of trash bags, they don’t like it if foreigners do so.

For instance, among the many comments trashing the woman’s rant, and especially her comparisons to price of bags in Germany, one user remarked, “it’s normal that prices are lower in third-world countries."
 
 

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