Despite its 'pristine' public image, Switzerland’s environmental record turns out to have more holes than one of its famous cheeses.
While the government’s Federal Office for the Environment can boast of diverting plastic from landfill for more than 20 years, funnelling it to incinerators instead is hardly a green win.
The neutral state’s legislators are also lagging behind their European neighbours on new policies to tackle the issue and have also been 'reluctant' to make better use of existing laws.
Fortunately, Ocean Care has prepared a list of (relatively) easy to implement measures which could have a speedy impact, including:
Stopping the Use of Disposable Take-away Food Containers, Cups, Cutlery and Bags
As in many other countries, the coronavirus pandemic saw a surge in the consumption of takeaway food and drink in Switzerland.
While replacing plastic utensils and packaging with biodegradable alternatives solves part of the problem, it is not a total solution.
Even the most eco-friendly plates and cups are a source of waste and litter which could be avoided if customers were encouraged to bring their own or there were better options for deposit-return schemes.
As the report says: 'We got used to takeaway, we can also get used to bringing along our own container or bag to put it in'.
Banning Microbeads from Beauty and Cosmetic Products
Bottles, bags and cigarette butts are only the most visible part of the plastic mountain – there are more which disappear down the drain before most people even think about them.
Once out in the wild, microbeads, which are found in dozens of household and personal products, wreak huge and long lasting damage on the environment.
Some EU states, such as Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Swiss neighbours France and Italy, have banned microbeads. Switzerland, and others, should 'dare to be more courageous' in following or exceeding their example.
Properly Defining Plastics Under Law
This might sound an obvious one,but, like a Toblerone, legislation in Switzerland and (elsewhere) leaves a few gaps.
Liquid polymers, nano plastics, microplastics, plastic fibres and plastic debris can all fall into grey areas under existing rules.
While unlikely to directly curb plastic production or consumption, tightening rules would leave fewer places for firms or authorities to duck their requirements.
Recycling and the Other Three Rs – Reducing, Reusing and Recovering
Moves to a circular economy often focus on recycling, but the concept needs to become much broader to become a reality.
Technical limitations of recycling mean it is unlikely to ever be a silver bullet solution to the plastics problem.
Reuse should instead be the norm 'wherever reasonably possible'.
Glass bottles and jars can satisfy the desire for reusability, as well as offering the chance for recovery and recycling in a way which plastic simply can’t.
However, this would require consumers and customers to vote with their feet and wallets, to force corporations and governments into action.
We already know smoking is bad for the health of the smoker and the people around them, but it’s not great for the environment either.
Cigarette butts are a major source of microplastic pollution (and litter generally), leeching into the environment and causing untold damage.
According to the report’s authors: 'As an overall win-win, Switzerland should bring down the number of smokers in the country, and reflect about how much it wants to profit from something as destructive as the tobacco industry'.
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