The clean Switzerland myth: Country lags behind rest of Europe on plastic waste

The clean Switzerland myth: Country lags behind rest of Europe on plastic waste

A new report by Oceancare, a marine protection organisation, has suggested that Switzerland is one of the worst countries in Europe, and indeed the world, for plastic waste. The body noted that an average person in the alpine nation wastes up to 95 kilograms of plastic every year, and called on the government to act to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment. 

85 to 95 percent of plastic in Switzerland not recycled

According to data from the Federal Office for the Environment - based on estimates - Oceancare noted that people in Switzerland use between 110 and 127 kilograms of plastic every year, of which 85 to 95 percent is wasted or left unrecycled. Speaking to Blick, they said this makes Switzerland one of the world's top plastic polluters, producing more waste per capita than all its immediate neighbours and the second most in Europe, only behind Luxembourg.

The organisation said that the idea of Switzerland being a “clean country” is a myth when it comes to recycling, noting that only around 5 to 15 percent of plastic is recycled, the rest being incinerated or littered. They noted that incineration is also harmful to the environment as it produces 170 kilos of highly toxic slag per ton of plastic.

What's more, much of unrecycled and unincinerated plastic finds itself in Swiss lakes, forests and rivers. For example, the latest estimates state that Lake Geneva now contains around 580 tons of microplastics, and that the River Rhine washes around 10 tonnes of microplastics into the sea at Rotterdam every year.

14.000 tons of plastic dumped in Swiss rivers, forests and lakes

In all, 14.000 tons of plastic end up in the environment in Switzerland every year. Tyre abrasion (8.900 tons) and littering (2.700 tons) were the most common forms of plastic pollution, with cigarette butts being the most common plastic item to litter. Oceancare blamed the sky-high numbers on how much plastic is consumed by the Swiss population and the absence of legislation from the government to combat single-use plastics.

“Switzerland brings up the rear in Europe when it comes to measures against plastic waste,” noted Oceancare CEO Fabienne McLellan. “It is now up to the Federal Council to systematically solve the plastic problem." 

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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