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In Switzerland, we have to pay taxes on the garbage bags that we consume. So, the more garbage you produce, the higher the tax you pay. This concept was pretty foreign to me when I first arrived from Canada.
I was a bit against the idea having to pay a tax to throw out my garbage. It seemed like an additional cost since I never had to pay tax on my garbage before.
Worse yet, if you don’t throw your garbage using the state-approved garbage bags, then you can risk getting fined hundreds of dollars. And trust me, they actually have personnel going through the garbage to identify where it came from! My friend threw an unapproved garbage bag out once and a few weeks later, it ended up back on her doorstep with a hefty fine attached to it. There is no easy way out of this garbage tax!
After living in Switzerland for almost 2 years now, however, I have come to appreciate the tax on garbage. Here’s why:
1. I produced less waste
The tax on garbage bags varies by volume and location. Where I live, the tax is $2 per 35L of garbage. 35L might sound like a lot, but I assure you, you can fill a bag of garbage up in a very short amount of time.
I was sick and tired of constantly having to run and buy more garbage bags. Instead, I decided to make a lifestyle change. Now, I am finding new ways to consume less so that I can produce less waste, and therefore pay less tax on my garbage!
I used to throw away 35L of garbage a week. Nowadays, I throw away 35L in one month! I cut my waste by 75% with very little effort! The environmentalists should be proud of me!
2. I consumed fewer processed products
We know processed food is bad for us. Did you know that processed meats are just as bad for your health as smoking and drinking? A WHO study in 2015 revealed that processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes. That’s scary!
Since moving to Switzerland, I have completely stopped consuming processed food. Everything that I buy is fresh and does not come in a sealed box. Not only does it help me to reduce my garbage (and save money), but it has also helped me to become healthier! Win-win!
This also applies to takeout! I hardly consume takeout anymore because there’s just way too much packaging!
3. I stopped buying anything with too much packaging
If I see something I want to purchase, but it comes with layers upon layers of plastic packaging, I usually just walk away from the purchase. This one criteria alone (having little to no packaging) has helped me to reduce my spending habits to almost zero!
I used to buy anything I saw that I looked cool and fancy. Now, I almost never buy anything new because I just don’t want to deal with the headache of throwing away all the packaging! This has helped me to save thousands of dollars while living as a student in Switzerland!
4. Instead of throwing stuff away, I donated it or sold it
I used to mindlessly throw things away whenever they were of no use to me anymore. Now, I either donate the items or sell them.
At my university, we have a room dedicated to reusing students’ used items and giving them a second home. I have made several trips to this room to donate my old clothes and devices. I also try selling my used goods on Facebook groups and local listings.
5. I became more conscious of my ecological footprint
Since I have to pay a tax on my garbage, I have become more mindful of the garbage that I produce. Before, I was mindlessly throwing everything out. Now, I actually start to think about where the garbage goes once it leaves my trash bin.
Our current garbage management system is clearly unsustainable and every little bit helps!
6. The garbage tax motivated me to start composting
Since I moved to my new apartment, I started composting too! Why? Because I found that the majority of my waste was actually just food scrap from vegetables and fruits. The problem with organic waste is that it tends to start decomposing rather quickly and giving off a foul odour. Not to mention, the fruit flies are a huge nightmare!
Even though I live in an apartment and don’t have a garden, I use this compost bin. It’s worked like a charm so far. There are no foul odours and it takes up very little room in my tiny apartment 🙂
7. I made a more conscious effort to recycle
Lastly, I have become an expert in recycling. In Switzerland, the recycling system is pretty complex. Sorting your garbage is a big deal. You have to sort your garbage by aluminum, glass, cardboard/paper, plastic (PET), and much more.
Before throwing something out, I always make sure to check whether any parts of it can be recycled. I want to reduce my garbage as much as possible and recycling even small bits and pieces definitely helps!
Moving to a foreign country and being faced with a tax on garbage was frustrating for me. However, now, I have grown to somewhat “love” the tax on garbage. Sure, I could still use the extra $2 per garbage bag that I throw out, but the tax has mentally transformed the way I manage my waste (and money). I am living a much more ecologically-friendly lifestyle now while consuming very little!
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