What happens to your waste after it has been collected?

Collection is only one part of the total waste value chain. So what happens to the waste after it is collected? Where does it go? Is it reused, recycled, incinerated or simply landfilled?

This article aims to clarify what the final destinations are for the main types of waste, without going into detail about exactly how it is recycled. This overview of the final treatment of our waste, with links to detailed information, helps to highlight the main issues.

Context

The collection points are numerous and well known. Recycling-map.ch lists each location by type of waste for the whole of Switzerland. However, this does not tell us anything about the final destination of our waste.

However, a selective and rigorous collection is essential to ensure the recovery of waste afterwards. According to swissrecycling.ch, this recovery makes a significant contribution to preserving resources, saving energy, reducing CO2 emissions and creating secondary raw materials.

To mention only the major final destinations of our waste, we will focus on recycling centers, incineration centers and landfills. Even though reuse is still not widespread enough, it should be favored.

Recycling centers

The common recyclable wastes, collected by the local authorities who provide numerous collection points, are well known to all. These include aluminum, glass, pet, paper and cardboard. In addition, other wastes are also recycled, in particular those coming from building sites, such as clean wood, metal waste, organic waste, plaster, insulation materials, etc. Each recycling channel is rigorously structured according to the type of material.

The IGORA cooperative, which is made up of major industrial and retail companies, is responsible for promoting the collection and recycling of empty aluminium packaging for our common waste. Vetro Recycling Switzerland, which is run by ATAG Wirtschaftsorganisation AG on behalf of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), collects and administers the advance disposal fees (ADT) on glass beverage containers. The association Pet-Recycling Schweiz provides a collection network for PET bottles throughout Switzerland on a voluntary basis.

As for paper and cardboard recycling, we invite you to read carefully our article of August 16, 2022, specially dedicated to this topic.

Clean wood, if not used locally as heating fuel, is reused to make new products, including particleboard. Learn more about the wood waste industry in this article from the Waste Forum.

In foundries and steel mills, various metal parts are recycled: tubes, pots and pans, mechanical parts, electrical cables, metal frames, bicycles, ski bindings. Metals are raw materials that can be reintroduced into the economic circuit by saving resources and energy.

The SENS eRecycling Foundation organizes the recycling of household appliances, electronics and electrical waste on the basis of the Advance Recycling Fee (ARF).  During the initial sorting, the products are dismantled to remove toxic components. The metals are then returned to the material cycle, while the plastic waste is incinerated.

Organic waste is recycled either by composting or by fermentation for reintroduction into the soil. The ban on landfilling organic waste is only very recent, dating back to the year 2000.

Finally, specific construction waste such as plaster or expanded polystyrene can also be recycled. Nevertheless, recycling centers are rare. For gypsum, for example, only one player in French-speaking Switzerland offers an approved outlet that guarantees optimum recycling: Helvetia environnement SA.

Incineration centers 

All your household waste, bulky waste and treated wood are incinerated.

Bulky waste is waste that, because of its size, cannot be disposed of with the household garbage. These bulky items include mattresses, appliances, furniture, etc.

These incineration plants, also called UIOM, are highly regulated and only release very small quantities of harmful substances. The energy produced by these operations is generally sold in the form of district heating or electricity and supplied to the public grid.

Landfills

In Switzerland, there are 5 types of classified controlled landfills:

  • type A for excavation materials – formerly DMEX
  • type B for inert materials – formerly DCMI
  • type C - formerly ISDS
  • type D for incineration bottom ash – formerly DCB
  • type E for other bioactive materials – formerly DCB

Type A landfills store unpolluted soil and stone materials, which are primarily intended for reuse, for the manufacture of construction materials or for excavation.

Type B landfills for inert materials (tiles, bricks, stones, roof tiles, rubble, window glass, porcelain, etc.) contain only slightly polluted materials. These are not recycled.

There are very few type C, D and E landfills in Switzerland. Not all cantons have such landfills.

Sorting and transport optimization issues

Too much recyclable waste ends up being incinerated and too much inert waste goes to landfill B instead of being sorted and recycled for reuse.

Sorting waste at the earliest possible stage is essential for optimal recycling and could avoid the above problems.

Let's take the example of construction waste. Inert construction waste should be reused as much as possible as a secondary resource in order to reduce the consumption of primary resources and to save limited landfill space. If not sorted on site, clean concrete or gypsum, for example, although recyclable, is thrown into the B landfill and not recycled.

As the ecosystem of collection points is complex and the final destinations of waste are sometimes highly centralized, optimizing the routes is also a major challenge to improve the waste value chain.

How does Big Sack contribute concretely to improve these conditions?

The Big Sack solution not only facilitates the sorting, but also reduces the transportation of waste, two essential components that promote the recycling of waste.

The flexibility and practicality of the Big Bag solution makes it possible to sort materials easily and directly where they are produced (building site, residence, etc.). The 1, 2 and 3m3 Big Bags allow an adapted sorting, independently of the quantity of the types of waste and their proportions. The early sorting not only favors the recycling of materials, but also reduces the costs of waste management.

In terms of routes, the Big Bag solution sent by post reduces by half the transport by truck compared to traditional solutions with dumpsters. In addition, our knowledge of the waste channels and our numerous partnerships with local transporters and recycling centers allow us to optimize the transport of waste between their place of disposal and their final destination.

If you want to know more about your specific needs, call us at 0800 284 284.

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