Cleanups: more than treating the symptoms

Switzerland has a littering problem. This is proven in the latest Swiss Litter Report by Stop Plastic Pollution (STOPPP) and WWF. The fact that our streets are relatively clean, we thank first and foremost our city and municipal workers, who are cleaning up behind us day in and day out. Everyone, who takes a stroll off the beaten path or early in the morning when the city cleaning has begun, notices this. 

The littering problem seeps more and more into the consciousness of the population. Media report about it and initiatives and organizations like Trash Hero Switzerland organize trash collection throughout Switzerland. Since a few years now, the Interest Group Clean Environment (IGSU) has dedicated a national Clean-Up-Day against littering in Switzerland. For two days, groups throughout Switzerland assemble to collectively gather litter from the neighborhoods and streets.

Actions like the Clean-Up-Day, along with other smaller initiatives also illustrate to the participants how much trash in Switzerland lands in the environment. But it is not just litter that lands in the environment that is problematic. In Switzerland, the average citizen produces 2 kg of trash per day – mostly without even thinking about it. We are convinced: It is central that the inhabitants of Switzerland begin to think about their trash, from where does it come, what happens to it, why do we produce so much trash. This way we can begin, cautiously and consciously, to consume with less waste. And we are convinced that this way, less trash will land in the environment.

Yes, Cleanups are valuable and important. They make our trash problem visible. This is crucial, but not enough. We can achieve a long-term improvement when we show the participants of the Cleanups (and the whole population) that each of us in our everyday lives has a personal contribution to give to help achieve a cleaner and more environmentally-friendly Switzerland. One step at a time, together we can change this, until one day hopefully no more Cleanups are necessary.

Author: Michelle Sandmeier, Vice-president of ZeroWaste Switzerland