Updated 13 February 2013
Geneva, Switzerland – Recycling in Geneva is on the rise. Genevans recycled 45% of their waste in 2011 up from 37% in 2003 (recycling in the city of Geneva is lower, at only 36.2% in 2011). Although the increase is significant, the Canton estimates that a stagering 90% of all aluminum and tin cans still wind up in the garbage.
Although canton Geneva has a guide for waste disposal, it is only available in French, and although several expat blogs help explain the basics, GenevaLunch is the only one presenting a full English version of the guide.
Recycling drop-offs can be easily found all over Geneva’s neighborhoods and communes. There, you can recycle the basics: glass bottles divided into white and darks (brown/green), PET plastic bottles, home-use batteries, aluminum and coffee pods. There are also bins for donating clothing items only at some of these recycling “corners” (no toys or other items for that read my separate post on recycling other items).
Bins for disposing of organic material or compost are provided by building managers (marked green) and collected once a week. Some buildings offer bins for cardboard and paper recycling, others do not (in that case you are asked to leave the paper recycle in front of your building on pick up day).
Recycle white, brown and green bottles in the corresponding bin.
Do not dump mirrors, porcelaine, light bulbs or ceramic in those bins it is not recyclable. Dispose of them properly.
PET bottles are labeled as such. Plastic cups and other plastic containers are not recyclable, neither are plastic bottles that contained shampoo, vinegar or oil.
An easy-to-follow guide is: if the container held a beverage, check the bottom of the vessel to see whether or not it is labeled as a PET, PETE or as a 1 product, if it is recycle it; if not compress the bottle, replace the cap and recycle it.
The city encourages compressing the bottle as it maximizes storage and improves fuel-efficiency during transportation.
Aluminum and tin products that can be recycled in Geneva include: Cans, aluminum foil, yogurt container lids, mayonnaise and other “food tubes”, “tubes” used to store products and medicines, aluminum containers, empty sprays and aerosols, certain pots, colanders and even ski poles.
Non-recyclable aluminum includes wrappers (cigarettes, butter, coffee, bouillon, etc.,) and mixed products: aluminum and cardboard, or aluminum and plastic.
Organic / Compost
The canton uses recycled organic material for compost which is later used as fertilizer in parks and public city gardens. When it comes to discarding food items, some of the townships have special rules. Check your commune’s website for further info.
You may obtain a special container to gather your organics free-of-cost from the city of Geneva. Go to 10, rue François-Dussaud, in Acacias, Monday through Friday from 7:30 to 11:30 or from 13:00 to 16:00 and request yours.
Similar containers and biodegradable bags are also available for sale in supermarkets.
Use of biodegradable bags to dispose of your compost material rests at your discretion. See-through/clear plastic bags are also allowed by the City. However, black plastic bags are prohibited as they can contaminate the material.
Organic waste accepted includes:
- All food products including processed foods and meat products
- Tea bags and coffee grounds (paper filters included)
- Plants, flowers and soil
- Animal and human hair
Some of the organic items mentioned above are not usually composted, however the city of Geneva does use them for composting.
Organic waste that cannot be recycled includes cat or any other animal litter, diapers, vinegars and oils. The aforementioned items cannot be put with the rest of the organic material. Cooking oil should be put in a clear glass container and trashed. For additional information on proper composting rules call: +41 (0) 800 22 4222.
Paper and cardboard
All paper – including glossy magazines and stapled paper – and cardboard is recyclable except for paper / cardboard contaminated with food or other organic material. That is, trash the pizza box or any other cardboard product with food residues.
Paper is collected by building or by street. Some buildings offer bins for cardboard and paper recycling, others do not (in that case you are asked to leave the paper recycle in front of your building on pick up day).
Old medicines, x-rays and thermometers should be returned to drugstores (or medical offices) so that they can be disposed of properly.
Home-use batteries, or piles, can be easily recycled in special containers located in neighborhood recycling centers, supermarkets and electronic stores. They should never be thrown in the garbage.
Long-lasting light bulbs should be recycled in supermarkets, regular light bulbs go in the trash.
In addition, around the canton there are several recycling centers where you may drop off, free of charge, items considered highly contaminant and that should NOT go in the bin.
These centers are called ESREC for their acronym in French. Dangerous items that can be dropped off at Esrec centers include:
- Aerosols and sprays if not empty
- Vehicle batteries
- Toners and ink cartridges (they can also be dropped off at any store that sells these kind of items and most supermarkets)
- Used animal or vegetable oils (they can also be put in a container and thrown in the bin)
- Mineral oils (they can also be returned to point of purchase but do not throw them in the bin)
- Paint and solvents
- Neon and fluorescent lights
Electronic, appliances, furniture and more
Electronics should be returned to any store that sells similar items. It does not have to be the same place where you purchased it. There is a sales tax applied to purchases in Geneva which covers these costs.
Appliances and furnitures can be picked up by the city (read my second entry on the subject here).