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CHRISTMAS

Reader question: How do I dispose of my Christmas tree in Zurich?

Christmas is over for another year. How do Zurich residents properly dispose of their Christmas trees?

A Christmas tree with decorations seen close up. Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash
A Christmas tree with decorations seen close up. How do you dispose of your tree in Zurich? Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

The life of a Christmas tree is charmed but fleeting. 

One day you’re the centrepiece of the house, glistening with tinsel and fairy lights, the next you’re out on the kerb. 

But for anyone who hasn’t yet disposed of their Christmas tree, it’s important to remember that Switzerland is Switzerland – and when it comes to rubbish collection, there are rules. 

When should I dispose of my Christmas tree in Switzerland?

When and how you dispose of your Christmas tree is generally up to you, if you want it to be collected by Zurich authorities, then you need to do it in January. 

Many people clear out their tree on January 6th, epiphany. 

READ MORE: 20 telltale signs you have gone native in Switzerland

Some Catholic households however dispose of their trees on February 2nd, Mary Candelmas. 

Those who dispose of their trees in February however will need to do so themselves, with the council only doing so in January. 

How do I ensure my Christmas tree is collected?

ERZ Disposal and Recycling Zurich will collect and dispose of your tree free of charge. 

In order to ensure it gets collected, there are a few rules to follow. 

You need to dispose of it on the day of collection of household waste before 7am. 

You need to remove all tinsel or other decorations from the tree, compact it to 1.5 metres and put it next to the Zuri sack container. 

Can I just put it with my compost?

The tree must not be disposed of in the organic waste/compost. 

According to Zurich City Council, this is because Christmas trees do not decompose properly. 

“A Christmas tree is usually chemically treated and has candle scraps or tinsel. These do not decompose in the fermentation process and would end up in the environment via compost utilisation in agriculture.”

READ MORE: ‘I faced prison for plastic in wrong recycling bag’

Instead, Christmas trees are collected and burnt to be turned into energy at the Hagenholz waste-to-energy plant. 

The energy of the burnt trees is then fed into the electricity network, returning as light and heat to Zurich homes. 

More information about the collection program is available here. 

Can I take my Christmas tree to the zoo?

This question is not as odd as it sounds – but the answer is still no. 

Christmas tree retailers often give unsold trees to the Zurich Zoo, Zurich Wilderness Park and the Langenberg Zoo. 

They are either eaten by elephants, llamas, camels, moose and alpacas, or used for playing and sniffing for tigers and lions. 

However, Zoos do not accept private tree donations. 

A spokesperson for Zurich Zoo told Switzerland’s NZZ newspaper that they already have enough from tree retailers and that trees from private homes often have decoration, chemicals and wax which the animals can’t eat. 

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CHRISTMAS

How to make Swiss Christmas cookies: Cinnamon stars

Nothing says Christmas is finally here in Switzerland better than Swiss festive cookies. Here's a recipe for one of the country's favourite festive treats.

How to make Swiss Christmas cookies: Cinnamon stars
Photo: Depositphotos

The smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through the air is a sure sign Christmas is upon us. 

While there’s a seemingly never-ending list of great Christmas cookies in Switzerland, the star of the show – pun well and truly intended – is the cinnamon star, or Zimtsterne

Cinnamon stars have been a central part of Christmas dining for more than 200 years. 

READ: How to celebrate Christmas like the Swiss

These simple cookies keep well and are relatively easy to make. 

This recipe comes from Andie Pilot from Helvetica Kitchen, one of our favourite sites for baking, frying, cooking and making anything Swiss and delicious. 

The full recipe has been reproduced below, but can also be found – along with a range of other great dishes and treats of all kinds – here

Ingredients

3 egg whites

250g icing sugar

350g ground almonds 

Two tbsp cinnamon

One tsp cloves

Shot of kirsch schnapps

Preparation

Using a large bowl and an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they are stiff. On low speed, mix in the icing sugar.

Now you want to fill a small bowl with about 100 ml of the egg white-sugar mixture to use later as icing. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge until you are ready to ice. In a large bowl, mix together the ground almonds, cinnamon, and cloves.

Image: Depositphotos

Add the egg white mixture and gently mix until you have formed a dough. Fold in the kirsch. Roll out to about 1 cm (½ inch) thick, then cut out with a star-shaped cookie cutter (dipping in warm water between cookies) and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Let dry on the baking sheets for a few hours or overnight. Now, take your reserved icing out of the fridge. Either dip the cookies in the icing, or spread it over the cookies with a small knife or offset spatula.

Baking

Preheat your oven to 250° C / 450° F / gas mark 8. One at a time, put the baking sheets on the bottom rack of the oven and watch until the icing just barely sets and the cookies get just a bit of colour at the edges.

This usually takes less than five minutes—so don’t leave them unattended or they will get too dark (though they’ll still taste delicious).

Alternatively, you can bake the cookies without icing (for about 5 minutes), let cool completely, then brush the reserved icing on top. Let sit for a few hours for the icing to dry completely.

Andie’s hot insider tips

Use granulated sugar or a wet rolling pin to roll out these sticky cookies.

In my house the Zimtstern (and Brunsli and Mailänderli) were always rolled out to about a cm thick and cut with relatively small cookie cutters.

If you prefer a thinner cookie, roll the dough slightly flatter.

These cookies will keep for a couple of weeks before they start to dry out. Store them alone in their own container and not with other cookies.

Use the leftover egg yolks to make Mailänderli or Spitzbuben.

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