From 1 January 2020, single use plastic products will be banned in the city of Geneva. Offenders will risk fines of at least CHF 100.
Offering free single-use plastic bags at retail checkouts will be banned across the canton from 1 January 2020. The law enacting the ban was passed earlier in 2019 by Geneva’s cantonal parliament. The ban is part of the canton’s plan to reduce the rubbish it burns by 25% between now and 2024.
In addition to the canton-wide ban on free single-use plastic bags, the City of Geneva, one part of the canton, has decided to ban single-use plastic bags, straws, drink stirrers, plates, cutlery, cups (including plastic covers) and balloon sticks offered by shops, food trucks and events in public settings. Offenders – those offering these items to the public – will be fined a minimum of CHF 100.
The single-use plastics covered by Geneva’s ban are only the tip of the plastic iceberg. Much of what goes into plastic bags at supermarkets is covered in plastic. While adding to plastic pollution, this reduces food waste, sparing the environment the strain of producing extra food.
Unfortunately, recycling has largely failed to solve the packaging pollution problem. One challenge is the economics of recycling, especially that of milk and drink cartons. These cartons, which appear to made from paper consist of plastic, paper and aluminium bonded together. The cost of recycling them is higher than the value extracted. This is a key reason why there are no recycling points for these cartons in Geneva. No communes in Valais and only two in Vaud have recycling points accepting these cartons.
As a result, in Switzerland, many drink cartons are burned, releasing their carbon and adding to air pollution. Switzerland avoids landfill by incinerating much of its rubbish.
Getting the companies that sell this packaging to subsidise the recycling of their products would be one way to solve this problem. Another solution, and one proposed by three large carton makers, would be for consumers to pay a recycling tax, which would be included in the price of the product. A similar system exists for PET recycling in Switzerland.