Zurich compost inspections named Switzerland's silliest law for 2024

Zurich compost inspections named Switzerland's silliest law for 2024

From being fined for throwing away a cardboard box in the wrong bin to having your application for citizenship scuppered for having the gall to mow the lawn on public holidays, Switzerland is home to more than its fair share of weird and wonderful rules. Now, the infamous Rusty Paragraph Awards has named the alpine nation’s stupidest law of the last year.

Rusty Paragraph Awards in Switzerland

Every year, union and association IG Freiheit hosts the Rusty Paragraph Awards, a tongue-in-cheek accolade given to politicians, local councils and cantons in Switzerland who they deemed to have proposed or enacted the country’s stupidest law of the last year. Since 2007, the general public has been able to nominate and vote on which Swiss law is the silliest. 

The last few iterations of the award have considered a series of quirky legislation proposed by well-meaning lawmakers. Some highlights include a Bünzli-style 10pm curfew for cowbells in Aargau, the temporary banning of fondue and raclette in cable cars and complimentary courses on potatoes in Basel.

Three silliest laws proposed in Switzerland in 2023 / 24

For the 2024 awards, five nominees were listed for the Rusty Paragraph. Here are the ludicrous laws and proposals that earned a top-three finish this year:

Proposal to ban Swiss traffic reports earns third place

While it’s never fun to be cut off in the middle of singing in your car by a traffic report telling you there is a jam on a motorway on the other side of the country, you don’t expect the long arm of the law to try and switch it off for you. That was exactly what was proposed by an initiative submitted by Green Party National Councillor Michael Töngi, who called for all traffic reports to be scrapped from the national broadcasters.

Writing at the time, Töngi said that “the traffic jam reports on the radio have become superfluous today when every driver can inform themselves via apps or navigation systems…this is not a public service [any more].” He added that adding traffic reports served a political purpose in making highway expansions seem more attractive and necessary. In response, SRF defended its reports, noting that they can help reduce congestion and prevent road accidents.

Following the news that his proposal made third in the Rusty Paragraph with 15 percent of the vote, Töngi said that traffic reports are themselves a “rusty and outdated affair.”

Million-franc-earning Langstrasse speed camera takes second

Second place in 2024 went to what was described by IG Freiheit as the “fine madness” seen on Langstrasse in Zurich, following the street's part-pedestrianisation in September 2023. Since then, only buses, taxis and cyclists have been able to use the street in both directions during the day. Drivers and motorcyclists have also been banned from using the street entirely from 5.30am to 10pm between the junctions of Ankerstrasse and Kanonengasse. 

However, soon after the measures were imposed, police noticed that a large number of motorists were simply ignoring the rules. Therefore, as of January 8, 2024, a camera has been set up, fining every driver that uses the road incorrectly 100 Swiss francs.

However, just one month after being installed, the camera managed to fine 17.310 drivers on Langstrasse, earning the city a cool 1,73 million francs in the process. During the month, city authorities were earning 38 francs a minute from the camera alone.

Writing at the time, security department spokesperson Mathia Ninck said that fines on the route would decline significantly as drivers get used to the new rules, assuring that the “new traffic regime is not about filling the city’s coffers with fines.” Zurich City Councillor Karin Rykart refused to comment on the camera’s second-place finish.

Compost inspectors in Zurich win Rusty Paragraph for 2024

Finally, with 43 percent of the vote, the new “Compost Inspectors” in Zurich won the Rusty Paragraph for 2024. Since January 2023, those who want the city to dispose of their compost have to pay between 105 and 580 francs a year for a special container. What’s more, if residents want to dispose of the compost themselves - via their garden, for example - and be exempt from the new fee, they have to apply to city authorities for an exemption.

However, as part of registering, the city will send out inspectors to “check” that the compost heap is accessible and being used correctly. To pass, private compost heaps must be a sufficient distance away from other houses, contain the correct type of compost and be wind-protected and semi-shaded. Anyone who falls foul of Zurich’s compost inspectors is given a deadline to bring their heap up to standard.

According to a spokesperson from Disposal + Recycling Zurich ERZ, inspectors will be sent to compost heaps every three to four years. This “Proof of Composting” certification, coupled with the idea of city officials ferreting around in soil, swayed the public vote, winning the city council of Zurich the Rusty Paragraph for 2024.

Speaking 20 Minuten, Simone Brander, the city councillor responsible for the compost law, said that for them the new rule “does not deserve the Rusty Paragraph.” However, she did admit that the first version of the law was too strict and that the compost inspectors were initially too enthusiastic in enforcing the rules. She assured that steps are now being taken to ease the rules, and thanked the public for their feedback.

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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