Expat in Zurich fined for putting a small cardboard box in a tram stop bin

Expat in Zurich fined for putting a small cardboard box in a tram stop bin

While Switzerland is often characterised as the home of people and officials who adhere to the rules to the bitter end, sometimes a story comes along that places that image into sharp relief: an American expat in Zurich is currently facing a fine from the police, after he placed a small cardboard box in a public bin.

Man in Zurich fined for cardboard box in bin

According to, an American resident of Zurich Oerlikon recently received a fine from the emergency services, informing him that he had “violated” the law. Confused as he had not yet learnt German, a quick scan of a translation app revealed the reason for the 120 Swiss franc fine. “My crime was apparently that I threw a piece of cardboard in the trash at my tram stop,” he told  

“I ordered a new cell phone case and took the package out of the mailbox in the morning before work. I unpacked the cover on the way and disposed of the box - barely larger than the cover - at the tram stop," the man explained. It turned out that not only had the man thrown away cardboard in a general public bin, but he had also done it on the wrong day and at the wrong time. 

Recycling department rooted around in bin to find evidence

Speaking to, Zurich Disposal and Recycling Department spokesperson Christoph Mahlstein said that "the person did not adhere to the prescribed time for providing the recyclable material." You are only able to dispose of cardboard in Zurich until 7am on the defined collection days, a deadline that the man had technically missed by miles.

Mahlstein went on to explain that the only reason why the American got caught was that workers at the department had gone rooting around in the bin and discovered that the package still had his name and address on it, which was later provided as evidence. While he had heard of Bünzlis before, the expat conceded that he “wouldn’t have expected someone to dig through the trash and look for addresses.”

The man has since appealed his fine with prosecutors. If they decide against him, he faces a bill of 320 francs: 120 for the fine, 150 francs in administrative fees and 50 francs in compensation.

Thumb image credit: Najmi Arif /

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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