Packaging waste legislation in Switzerland

Switzerland is part of EFTA (the European Free Trade Area) but has opted out of the EEA (European Economic Area), which has the legal consequence that Switzerland has no legal obligation to transpose EU Directives. To that extent, it is not bound by the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

Nevertheless, Switzerland has committed to harmonise its legislation with the EU rules so as not to obstruct the exchange of goods with EU Member States. To that extent, there is no general legislation on packaging but a series of specific prescriptions for each packaging type contained in the Beverage Containers Ordinance (2000).

All there is to know about Swiss legislation on packaging waste

Switzerland is not a member of the EEA and is therefore not bound by the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Swiss law – unlike in the EU – does not aim to encompass all packaging: no general ordinance on packaging exists and none is planned for the future. Nevertheless, prescriptions concerning specific types of packaging, or their characteristics, do exist in the Beverage Containers Ordinance (2000).

It refers particularly to:

  • A 75% minimum recycling target for glass, PET and aluminium
  • The organisation of a marking, deposit or taxation system, depending on the material concerned 

Rules are complemented by the application of the “polluter paysprinciple, which requires that those responsible for commercial and industrial waste should bear the costs linked to their disposal.

Even if Switzerland has its own legislative system, it did adopt the CEN standards referring to essential requirements and limits on heavy metals

 

  1. “Polluter pays” principle

    Waste management is covered by the principle of the “polluters pays”. Therefore, the law requires that those responsible for commercial and industrial waste bear the costs linked to their disposal.

  2. No general legislation on Waste and Packaging Waste

    Until now, the only legislation in force, and related to packaging waste management, is the Beverage Containers Ordinance that only concerns beverage containers, excluding milk products. It regulates the sale and recovery of beverages packaging, with the aim of reducing the amount of beverage containers in the municipal waste stream, by reducing the number of one-way containers.

    It lays out in particular that:
    • Reusable packaging is subject to a deposit and an obligatory marking 
    • Disposable packaging in PET or metal (aluminium and tin) is either subject to the payment of a financial contribution to an existing recycling organisation, or must be taken back by distributors, regardless of the brand of the product  
    • Disposable packaging in PVC is subject to an obligatory deposit 
    • Packaging in glass, PET and aluminium are subject to a minimum recycling target of 75% 
    • The amounts of beverages and packaging are subject to mandatory declaration 
    • Glass bottles are subject to a prepaid disposal fee (PDF) defined in a separate ordinance

  3. Compliance organisations and financing

    The entire collection, treatment and recovery of paper, cardboard, glass, PET beverage bottles, tin and aluminium cans, is carried out by municipal services and private organisations. Other packaging waste (plastic films, drink cartons, and composite materials) are disposed of with unsorted municipal waste, and incinerated. 

    As far as financing is concerned:
    • For mixed solid waste, the burden is directly put on consumers with taxes levied on rubbish bags.
    • For recyclable elements, a prepaid disposal fee (PDF) is mandatory. For packaging waste, the only legal PDF currently in force is on glass bottles. 

    Voluntary systems have been set up by the industry to cater for the recovery of PET bottles, aluminium and tin cans. Producers, importers and retailers contribute to voluntary systems for the recovery of PET bottles, aluminium and tin cans by refunding the PDF levied to the competent organisation. By opposition, the collection of old paper and cartons is mostly financed by the municipalities.

  4. Organisation of some packaging streams 
    • PET beverage containers

      PET containers are regulated by a specific organisation: PET-Recycling Schweiz (PRS) which undertakes all collection, sorting and treatment operations. PRS levies a recycling charge of CHF 0.018 per bottle sold by its members. At the end of 2006, 85% of beverage retailers were member of PRS.

      In light of the unsatisfactory recycling targets, the Federal Office of the Environment had considered the possibility of imposing a tax on PET bottles and had even commissioned a study on what implication the introduction of a deposit system could have. Finally, following the achievement of the 75% recycling target, the Government withdrew the threat of a possible tax. 
    • Aluminium beverage cans

      Recycling for aluminium beverage cans is very high in Switzerland. IGORA (the Swiss Cooperative society for aluminium can recycling) levies a voluntary prepaid recycling charge of CHF 0.03 on fillers and importers for each aluminium can sold in Switzerland.

      The system seems to be working quite well and, since the targets have been reached, the Federal Government does not plan any further action. 
    • Aluminium packaging (not including cans)

      The collection of aluminium and steel packaging was combined in 1996. Both types can now be placed in the same container. IGORA levies a prepaid recycling charge of CHF 0.01 per item.
      No further legislative effort has been identified by the Federal Government as the existing system operates quite well. However, ideally, the financial burden could be reduced and information to consumers could be improved. :
    • Paper packaging

      In 2006, the government considered introducing an advance disposal fee for paper packaging, but the proposal was dismissed following the signature of a voluntary agreement with the paper suppliers and the waste paper industry.

      Waste paper collectors guarantee to pay municipalities a minimum amount for the waste paper they collect from households and to take all the paper collected, provided that it meets an agreed quality specification.

  5. Essential requirements and Heavy Metal Limits

    Even though Switzerland has no legal obligation to transpose the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and its Annexes, it did adopt CEN standards, which give effect to the Essential Requirements and guidance on compliance with heavy metal limits.