Zurich to fine American resident for throwing carton into trash

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Zurich to fine American resident for throwing carton into trash
A lesson for Will: in Switzerland, this has to be recycled. Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

One international resident in Switzerland has recently found out that disposing of your garbage correctly in Switzerland is not just a lot of trash talk.


Foreigners often face quite a steep learning curve when it comes to Swiss laws, rules, and regulations.

Take Will, for instance.

As local media reported on Tuesday, “a US expat recently became acquainted with the Swiss waste disposal culture.”

This is what happened: an obviously clueless fellow threw a carton box in which his new mobile phone was packed into a trash can at a tram stop. As he received the package by mail, his name and address were still affixed to the box.

What would have been a normal action in the United States (and pretty much elsewhere as well) was an offence in Switzerland, as Will would soon find out.
Next thing he knew he received a ‘violation report’ from the Zurich police for not complying with waste management rules — that is, throwing cardboard into a ‘regular’ bin rather than recycling it.

“I wouldn’t have expected someone to dig through the trash,” the offender said, obviously not knowing how Switzerland works.

This is what Will should have known, but didn’t:

The Swiss are meticulous when it comes to waste disposal and, not surprisingly, they have strict regulations on how to throw away trash in an environmentally correct manner.

Between separating recyclables into separate bins, using officially sanctioned (i.e. expensive) trash bags, and putting out the garbage for collection only on designated days and in designated places, the myriad of rules can be confusing to any foreigner.

However, this is required knowledge for anyone living in Switzerland — especially if they hope to be naturalised one day.

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


Officials will rummage through your trash to ensure rule compliance

Though this may sound far-fetched to anyone not living in Switzerland, cities actually employ ‘trash inspectors’ whose unenviable job is to rummage through garbage to ensure that no ‘forbidden’ items are thrown in there.

And if there are, they search the trash for clues to the offender’s identity: envelopes with their name and address, for instance, so they can be slapped with fines.

(This is exactly how Will was caught).

READ ALSO: Why the Swiss government rummages through your garbage

What is going to happen to Will?

He learned that he must remove address labels from everything that he throws out.

In the meantime, he is waiting to receive his fine, which could be as high as 320 francs.

If it is paper form, Will has hopefully learned enough from this experience to recycle it.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also