Why is the Swiss government asking people to bury underwear?

Why is the Swiss government asking people to bury underwear?

Putting the under in underwear: in a statement, the Swiss government has asked for volunteers to join the latest version of the “Exhibt Underpants” study. Participants are tasked with burying their southern necessities beneath the earth, so that residents and the government can better understand soil quality in Switzerland.

The Swiss government wants your soiled underwear

Beginning in April 2024, anyone resident in Switzerland can sign up for the Beweisstück Unterhose or Exhibit Underpants project. The experiment is the second iteration of the study and was created by several organisations including the University of Zurich, the Federal Office of Agriculture and various Swiss cantons.

Anyone who wants to participate can download the official app for the study. Once registered, on April 20 or 21, 2024 participants will dig a 30-centimetre-deep hole in the soil and then place a pair of their old and purely cotton underwear into the ground. Once buried, participants use their mobile phones to register the pants' location with the authorities.

On June 15 or 16, people are invited to dig out their thoroughly soiled garments and take a picture of how much they have been degraded by their time in the ground. Once completed, the government will have a whole archive of pants from across the country.

Why are people in Switzerland burying their underwear?

So why is the government asking people to bury their old undies? According to the Federal Office for the Environment, the experiment is a good way to analyse soil and teach children and parents about soil quality. “Soils are the basis of forests, meadows and fields... They shape the landscape, protect against natural hazards and counteract global warming. Without earthworms, springtails, nematodes, mites, fungi and bacteria, soils could not produce food or provide clean water,” they wrote.

Therefore, if the underpants are not eaten away during their time in the ground, it’s a sign that the soil is unhealthy as it does not contain enough of the creatures and plants that feed on organic matter and other forms of detritus, and make the ground clean and fertile. In this situation, the project provides participants with several techniques to try and improve the soil quality. 

In contrast, if the pants are eaten, it’s a sign that the soil is alive and well. Want to sacrifice your veteran pants and take part in the project? Check out the official website.

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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