For members


Reader question: How can I dispose of electric appliances in Switzerland?

Whether it’s an old microwave or broken vacuum cleaner, sooner or later you will have to get rid your home of electric equipment. There are rules about how you can (and can’t) do this in Switzerland.

Reader question: How can I dispose of electric appliances in Switzerland?
Don't throw this broken smartphone into trash. Photo by Laura Rivera on Unsplash

There used to be a time when broken appliances were repaired and reused, but this is no longer done, at least not frequently. Most of the time it is cheaper to buy a replacement than to have old appliances fixed.

That is why we live in the so-called ‘disposable’ or ‘throw-away’ society — a real catastrophe for the environment.

You may be tempted to just toss away smaller items like hairdryers, or hand-held blenders and mixers, into the trash. But that is not the proper, or environmentally friendly, way of disposal.The reason is that electronics contain toxic chemicals that can, if not properly disposed of, leak and contaminate groundwater and soil.

In fact, this action is punishable by a fine (the amount of which is determined by each commune).

And if you think nobody will ever know, you are wrong.

True, chances that you will be found out are slim, but not totally non-existent: municipal workers have the right to go through trash bags to see what’s in them, and will look for clues therein to identify (and fine) garbage offenders.

So what do you do with all the electrical equipment that you no longer use?

This being Switzerland, where the so-called “recycling culture” is highly developed, each commune has various collection / drop off points for electronics.

Obviously, smaller items are easier to transport to a collection venue than large, bulky, and heavy ones. Unless you have a very big car and lots of muscle, you will not be able to carry refrigerators or washing machines yourself — nor are you expected to.

When you buy a new fridge or another large and heavy appliance, you will have it delivered. The old one will be taken away (probably for extra fee) to a recycling location.

Smaller electrical and electronic appliances are easier to dispose of because you can carry them yourself. There are two ways of doing this.

Items like microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and any other small appliance, can be brought to any store selling products of the same type. Shops have an obligation to take back all such appliances free of charge,  regardless of whether they had been purchased there or not.

Your other option is to take these items to your community’s collection point / recycling centre, which have special places just for electrical appliances.

All communes make such facilities available to their residents — not just for electrical items but for all kinds of trash big and small, including PET bottles, paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, batteries, as well as organic waste / compost. 

If you don’t know where your nearest collection point is, this map will help.

READ MORE: Trash talk: What are the rules for garbage disposal in Switzerland?

If you are not sure which devices are considered as electric, basically it is any equipment that has a plug: refrigerators; freezers; air conditioners, TVs and other entertainment equipment, gardening and fitness machines; computers; and telecommunications.

You will find that the collection points have special bins not just for appliances and electronics, but separate ones for electric wires and plugs as well.

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For members


Reader question: Is it a good time to convert Swiss francs into euros?

If you are planning to travel within the EU this spring, you may be wondering whether you should exchange Switzerland’s currency into euros now, or wait a little longer. Here's the outlook.

Reader question: Is it a good time to convert Swiss francs into euros?

The relationship between the franc and the euro can be compared to a dance: at times one leads and the other follows the footsteps, and at other moments the roles are switched.

Looking back to the not-too-distant past, the franc was slightly weaker than the euro at the beginning of 2022, with the reversal occurring later in the year, when the two currencies reached parity in March, and the Swiss franc had continued to strengthen against the single European currency throughout summer and fall.

This meant that residents of Switzerland could travel, and shop in, the eurozone for less money than before.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What the weakening euro means for Switzerland’s residents

This was the case even though products and services in the EU became more expensive due to high inflation, while Switzerland’s rate was much lower.

What is the situation now?

In recent weeks, the franc has been appreciating again, though at the moment of this writing it is at the 1:1 parity with the euro.

The surge has been driven by a tense banking situation in the United States, which impacts the euro and then the Swiss franc, as a safe haven.

Given that the franc’s rise (or fall, for that matter) is based more on general monetary and economic forecasts than on exact science, is now a good time to buy euros?

This may be an important issue, especially if you are planning to spend Easter holidays in the eurozone .

According to Sergio Rossi, professor of economics at the University of Fribourg, there is no rush.

“I don’t think the Swiss franc will depreciate again” from where it is now, he said in an interview with Watson news platform.  

This means that people who recently converted francs into euros, or will do so soon, “are not going to lose”. 

What is the longer-term outlook for the franc-euro ratio?

Even despite the banking crisis that has hit Switzerland in recent days, the forecast for the franc is good.

While there are various forces at play, including whether the European and Swiss central banks will adjust their key rates this week, “in any case, the franc should gain in value by the summer,” Rossi said.

This is undoubtedly good news for residents of Switzerland who are going to holiday abroad, but not so good for the country’s economy as a whole.

The reason is that Switzerland relies heavily on exports — particularly pharmaceuticals, machinery, instruments, and watches. Over 40 percent of the country’s production is sent to its main trading partners in the European Union. 

Exports are the backbone of Switzerland’s prosperity and economic growth. But when the franc rises, it makes Swiss products less competitive — that is, too expensive — in eurozone markets.

Throughout the years, the government has tried to keep the franc’s value from rising.

In 2011, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) had capped the franc at 1.2 euros, devaluing the Swiss currency by 8 percent. The central bank took this drastic step by printing billions of francs and using them to buy foreign money, pushing its foreign currency reserves to record highs.

However, in 2015, the SNB abandoned the cap, saying it was no longer justified. The franc’s value immediately soared by around 30 percent. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why does Switzerland want to keep the Swiss franc weak?