Last week I spent a little time cleaning and organizing our storage room. I came across a bunch of garbage bags and it got me thinking about the differences between trash and recycling here vs in the US. Those of you that know Julie, also know that she never saw a sale she didn’t like. If Tide was on sale, she bought Tide even if we had 5 bottles in the basement. She did the same with trash bags. I wound up donating a lot of them, but we moved with enough garbage bags to last us a year. Unfortunately, we are unable to use any of them, and they will be moved back to the US with us, to be used there. Thank goodness plastic doesn’t degrade very easily. :).
Trash over here, just like the most places in the US, is a municipal issue. Trash is picked up once a week, but here is where it gets different. Garbage can only be disposed of in your town’s special trash bags. Our trash bags are white and orange, they come in different sizes, but it is very obvious if someone tried to use a different town’s garbage bag, The bags are sold in grocery stores, and they are a controlled item. Meaning that you can only buy them from a store cashier. The cost for the kitchen size bags is 16 CHF for a bundle of 10, or 1.60 CHF per bag. (Remember 1 franc is roughly equal to $1.) We go through between 3 and 4 bags per week. If I remember the annual costs that were on our property tax, then what we pay over here is actually very comparable to what we paid in the US. The biggest difference being the amount of garbage that money paid for. I would say when I look at the quantity of trash, then we got about double in the US what we get over here. That is just a guess, but I know we threw away a lot more in the US. Part of that was because the kids came home occasionally, but we also bought a LOT more stuff in the US than we do here.
When it comes to recycling, I really like the way we did it back in WI. It was A LOT easier. Here we have to take the recycling to drop off points. We have to separate all the recycling. Not just glass from plastic, but different colored glass, and different types of plastic. In some ways it isn’t that onerous, as the recycling stations are on the way to the grocery stores, and at the stores, but it does take more time. Also over here, it is easier to recycle other things that is hard in the US. For example two of the grocery stores near us have battery, lightbulb, and water filter drop off locations. Getting rid of hazardous materials is just as hard over here, but hopefully I won’t have to find out about that for a couple of more years. The Swiss do take great pride in the recycling system, and everyone participates. However, the dirty little secret about what actually gets recycled is the same over here as it is in the US. An example I found online is that over 80% of paper and cardboard gets recycled, but only about 60% of that actually gets recycled, the rest of it is handled like regular trash.
A final note about trash over here: The Swiss stopped burying garbage a little over 20 years ago. Now all of the refuse is incinerated to produce electricity. In Europe, Switzerland is the number three country for amount of garbage generated per person. So there is a lot of trash!
We did a little driving this weekend. On Saturday, we drove to a town named Pfäffikon for a taste of the US. We went and visited a Popeye’s Louisiana Chicken. Restaurants can still be open here for take out or delivery.
The chicken was just as good as I remembered it being. Sorry Chick-fil-A you lost that battle! I am predicting that from this point on, if we take weekend drives, we will somehow find ourselves driving through Pfäaffikon on the outbound or homeward trip.
On Sunday we visited the city of Chur (prounounced: kur). Chur is one of the oldest cities in Switzerland. According to some sources it is THE oldest city in Switzerland. The city is 111 km from our house, so it takes about an hour and a half to get there. It was my first experience driving in the mountains over here, but it was all freeway. Very pretty but no twists and turns. One of the fun things were all the tunnels. Until this trip, the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado was what I think of when I think big tunnels. Not any longer. The Kerezenberg tunnel is over three times longer than the Eisenhower. I was a little disappointed though, because I was going to take a video going through the tunnel on the way home, but this tunnel is only one way. :(. The return trip is along a lake, so it is more scenic, but not as memorable. I also learned that I have never driven a “luxury” car before moving here. I am paranoid about speeding tickets, so I set the cruise control about 2 KM under the posted limit. I freaked out a little when after about 10 minutes the car started slowing down by itself. I thought I had broken something, but then I realized the car thought I was to close to the car in front of me; so it was slowing itself down. 🙂
Chur is not one of the popular tourist places, but especially during the summer, I can see it being a fun place to spend a few days. It is in a big open valley; so there is a lot of hiking and biking trails, but close enough to the mountains that you can get up to the hills as well. There isn’t any skiing right there; so the town was pretty much a ghost town. The most awesome thing we saw was two men dressed up in some kind of costume complete with a sheep mask. They were playing cowbells that were attached to their costume. I really wanted to get a video, but I didn’t have any cash with me to pay them, and I thought it would be disrespectful to record them without compensating them for their efforts. Next time we visit, hopefully they will be performing. The old section of the city is really charming, and it was really kind of neat walking up the hill towards the church. Unfortunately, Julie saw a lot of little shops that she wants to visit once the lockdown is lifted; so we will probably be returning more quickly than I realize.
I am realizing that the Swiss Federal Government is no better organized than the US Federal Government. Which is kind of surprising since there are only about 8.5 million people living here. Last week, literally 10 minutes after I posted my update, I read an article saying there was going to be announcement in about 24 hours about the extensions we were going to have for the lockdown. Well the next day came and went, and there were no updates. I have since learned, that there are some officials that want to go even more strict in regards to the lockdown. They want ski slopes closed, schools closed, and they want to go even more strict on the work from home, and store shutdown orders. These same people also want the lockdown to continue all the way through March. Their belief is that the UK and South African variants of the virus are becoming more prevalent, and if the country wants to have any kind of “normal” summer then we need to lockdown even harder and longer. Of course another group in the government wants the exact opposite. The next group is saying we should open everything up. They think all the restrictions are not needed, and that we are making the situation a lot worse than it needs to be. The reality is probably going to be that some restrictions will be loosened, but the timing for the complete lifting of the restrictions will be
The other story in the news lately, has been that the Minister of Health has been accused of burying a report from last summer. This report was saying that the Government should have started taking steps in August or September, to keep the 2nd wave from getting out of control. Instead the Federal Government loosened restrictions during that time. This loosening led to the 2nd wave being about 3 times worse than what happened last March and April.
The Federalist style of Government is the same over here as back in the US. The individual Cantons are just as powerful as the individual states are back home. This has led, just like the US, to a patchwork of rules in trying to contain the virus. We are seeing the same thing over here in regards to vaccinations. Some Cantons are doing a really good job and getting the vaccinations distributed very well. Others are really struggling. The biggest difference (outside of having 7 Presidents) is that in Switzerland it is much easier to have a say at the national level. It is very easy to get an initiative on the ballot and to force the entire country to vote on it. In fact, one of the initiatives coming up this summer is to take away the Federal Government’s ability to put in place any restrictions due to a health crisis. It is expected to fail, but every Swiss citizen eligible will be able to vote on this. To show how easy it is to get something on the ballot for a national vote, one of the other initiatives is called the “bistro vote”. This is to force every restaurant to become a canteen for workers. It is supposed to allow any person working outside to be able to go into a restaurant to eat lunch. The would take place even though restaurants are closed for eating in right now. I can’t figure out if that last one was put forward by the restaurant industry, or the labor unions?
Anyway, it doesn’t look like we will be over this any time soon.
We did not get a lot of pictures but below are the pictures we took from Chur.
Talk to you next week.