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As of this year, it’s official. Geneva is the only canton that does not have a “pay as you pollute” trash bag tax. It seems we have been granted, or perhaps taken, another year to reach a federally imposed objective of recycling 50% of our household waste. Currently, we stand at 48.6%.

So in an attempt to make this objective, the canton is tackling the 250 kilograms of per person annual food waste with the introduction of  La P’tite Poubelle Verte, the little green waste bin.

Unlike the garden waste bins or one’s personal compost, this little green bucket is meant to collect all food waste; cooked, raw, egg shells, fish, meat, bones,  bread, cheese, tea bags, pasta and gratin. I recently received my free little green bucket along with biodegradable sacks from my commune. Ever the optimist, I love it.

My kitchen triage center where my little green bin just barely fits in.

Most communes are now on board which means disposal bins labeled Déchets de Cuisine or Déchets Organique are popping up at all the recycling centers. Check if your town hall or municipal police are also giving them out for free.

While Geneva debates the effectiveness of a sack tax, it’s interesting to look at Vaud, a fellow Swiss Romande canton, as a case study. Vaud introduced the sack tax in 2012. According to SwissInfo, household garbage decreased by 40% within one year while paper, glass and compost recycling increased by 16%, 10% and 64%, respectively. These were fantastic results. However, three years later RTS (Radio TV Suisse) reported that while the quantity of recycling increased to a proportion of 57% of waste, the quality decreased. In 2012 “errors” in the paper recycling bin were 1%. In 2015, it rose to 4%. Furthermore, 25% of the green waste collected was unusable.

When pondering issues such as this, I often feel I might be better suited living in the Swiss German rule-following part of the country. I am often frustrated by one of my neighbors who throws everything into our communal bin. But while one part of me would love to throw a sack tax at them, I realize that it would unlikely change their behavior. So for now maybe Geneva’s on the right track for our cantonal culture: keep teaching the children, make recycling easy and lay on the peer pressure.

Swiss recycling

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website.