Switzerland and the Plastics Challenge: Realities and Perspectives
24 January 2024
In the shadow of Switzerland's majestic Alps lies an insidious threat: the massive use of plastics.
Each year, nearly one million tonnes of plastic materials are consumed in Switzerland.
More alarming is that 790,000 tonnes become waste. To put it into perspective, each person in Switzerland produces about 95 kg of waste annually.
A significant portion of this waste is incinerated, but a considerable amount ends up in the environment, with obviously disastrous consequences. Imagine, if you can, 14,000 tonnes of plastics being discarded into the Swiss nature annually. To help you visualise: if a blue whale, the largest animal on Earth, weighs on average about 180 tonnes, this means that 14,000 tonnes is roughly equivalent to the weight of 78 blue whales. Can you imagine it? From mountains to lakes, rivers to soils, plastic is everywhere, catastrophically affecting fauna and flora.
Then, the visible but formidable macroplastics are overshadowed by microplastics, those almost imperceptible particles that infiltrate everywhere. They are hidden enemies, threatening our health and ecosystems in a silent but persistent manner.
What are the most significant sources of microplastics in Switzerland?
The origin of these microplastics in Switzerland is diverse: tyre abrasion, synthetic textiles, cosmetics, and much more. Once released, these particles travel through water and wind, settling in soils, contaminating our food chain, and irreversibly impacting biodiversity.
The Hidden Side of Lake Geneva and Its Impact on the Mediterranean
Lake Geneva, often celebrated for its beauty and crystal-clear waters, also faces concerning plastic pollution. With 580 tonnes of microplastics already accumulated in its waters, Lake Geneva highlights the environmental urgency that concerns us all.
Each year, an additional 55 tonnes of these microplastics are dumped into the lake. These particles pose a serious threat to aquatic biodiversity and water quality.
10% of the waste accumulated in Lake Geneva is then flushed out by the Rhône and eventually released into the Mediterranean Sea, underlining the interconnection of our ecosystems and the global reach of local pollution. This situation calls for collective awareness and concerted action to protect not only Lake Geneva but also the oceans and waterways that depend on it.
So, what actions is Switzerland considering?
In Switzerland, efforts are being made to reduce this pollution, notably through the recycling and incineration of plastic waste. But this is not enough.
Research conducted by the OFEV and other institutes aims to understand and reduce the presence of plastics in the environment.
Internationally, Switzerland plays an active role, promoting responsible management of plastic materials. Its involvement in the United Nations Assembly negotiations for an agreement on plastics reflects this responsibility.
Are you interested or based in Switzerland? Find out more on our website and get in touch with our local team.
Conclusion: It's a real global challenge, and we all need to act.
We are at a crossroads. Will we continue to ignore this invisible scourge, or will we take the necessary steps to protect our environment for future generations?
The answer depends on us, on our willingness to change, innovate, and preserve the natural beauty of our planet and our oceans.