Switzerland’s position on littering needs to be revised

In the past few years, parliament members have introduced at least 2 motions to the Bundesrat calling for a nationwide anti-littering campaign. All have been declined. Each time, their official position has been that all this should be handled at the local level.

The Stellungnahme to Motion 11.3944, Bekämpfung des Litterings said among other things, “Das Problem muss in enger Zusammenarbeit von Gemeinden, Kantonen, lokaler Wirtschaft und Zivilgesellschaft lokal gelöst werden.”

The Stellungnahme to Motion 07.3342 Schluss mit Littering said, “Für die Lösung des Problems sind primär die Kantone und Gemeinden zuständig.”

It turns out that the Bundesrat did not arrive at this position themselves. They went to the BAFU for advice and took BAFU’s position. One would assume that the BAFU has a committee working on this, however, this is not true. There is only 1 person working on the subject of littering there.

Not only does Switzerland’s position on littering comes from one person, but it does not take in to account the latest information.

Things have changed since 2007. There is now evidence showing that this position is only half-correct.  Yes, logistics, sorting, and transport must be done on a local level.  However, the experience from countries who have implemented the Let’s Do It! strategy & methods created in Estonia in 2008 have proven that this is not enough to turn the tide on littering and the arbitrary dumping of trash.

Many countries have local clean-ups and locally-run anti-littering campaigns.  None of them have had success in changing behavior.  The amount of trash in the environment did not decrease from year to year.  The same 50 people would show up to the annual local clean-up, they’d clean up their area, and 2 days later, it would be a mess again.

Things changed once they implemented the Let’s Do It! concept. This concept is simple:

  • 1 nationwide and unified message
  • 1 nationwide, unified clean-up carried out in 1 day
  • massive media-hype

A few countries have now several years experience running unified, country-wide campaigns.  They report that the number of volunteers has grown from year to year and the amount of trash needed to be collected has declined from year to year.  The nationwide approach HAS truly affected a change in behavior!

Their conclusion: local efforts were never able to reach the critical mass needed.  Only the national campaigns made a big enough splash to draw national and international attention and thus reach a critical mass in awareness.  They succeeded in making cleaning the environment COOLER than littering.  The data now proves it.

It is time for the BAFU to update their position and pass it on to the Bundesrat.