Trends and technology

Society is changing fast. What’s trendy one day is old news the next. The result of this is that the demands of the public are constantly increasing. How is SENS eRecycling working to meet these demands? Let us give you some insights into our work.

The post project

Swiss Post picks it up!

A simple way to dispose of electronic toys from the comfort of your own home? On the occasion of International E-Waste Day on 14 October 2019, Swiss Post and SENS eRecycling piloted a visionary idea. In the Seefeld and Schwamendingen districts of Zurich, people were able to dispose of defective electrical or electronic appliances in a recycling bag that they put in their own household parcel box. Swiss Post would then transfer them to a recycling point. The target of 180 returned bags was reached with ease.

For 30 years now, people in Switzerland have been able to take their defective devices to one of over 600 collection points for free, or bring them back to the retailer for recycling. It is a proven system. But wouldn’t it be handy if you could dispose of defective electrical or electronic appliances right from your own home? Expectations in terms of convenience are constantly increasing, including in the area of recycling. The project called “Swiss Post picks it up!” was launched in two districts of the city of Zurich to help address this. For two months, residents were provided with a home collection service, making recycling much more convenient. In the pilot area, which included around 23,000 households, families in particular were asked to recycle their broken electronic toys. 

Why electronic toys? It was decided that the target group would be families. Since every family tends to have some broken electronic toy cars or drones in the basement, it was decided that the focus would be on electronic toys. In order to promote the project, households were sent a letter with a recycling bag and an information flyer enclosed. All they had to do was put broken electronic toys in the bag and then put the bag in their own household parcel box. Swiss Post would then pick up the bag when delivering the mail and bring it to a recycling point. In order to further promote the project, information was posted on social media and on our website during the pilot period. The pilot project was also featured in a report in the Swiss Recycling Magazine.

A total of 207 kilograms of material was returned – a complete success. The material was of very high quality, with only 1 per cent impurities. Thanks to meticulous recording of the material that was returned, we were able to carry out a valuable analysis. The material that was collected also revealed exciting differences between the collection areas of Schwamendingen and Seefeld in terms of the quality of the devices sent to be recycled. The pilot project was expanded to a larger area in 2020 in order to gain more comprehensive and in-depth insights.


  • 23,000 letters by post sent with an information flyer and recycling bag enclosed
  • Around 780 items returned
  • 207 kilograms of electronic appliances collected
  • 72 per cent electrical with ARF, 8 per cent electrical without ARF, 19 per cent toys, 1 per cent impurities


Key objective
To test a new take-back route for electronic waste and to increase convenience for consumers in the disposal of electronic waste

Development of a postal take-back system, a pilot project in two districts of Zurich, and communication on social media, on the website and in a specialist magazine to further promote the project

Letter sent to 23,000 households, thereby reaching around 48,300 people, report on Radio Energy and various queries about the project from schools and residents in the pilot districts

The target of 180 returned bags was reached with ease. The percentage of impurities was only one per cent. In 2020, the project was expanded to a larger area in the city of Zurich and in Berne.

Resource trialogue

An important driver for the future of waste and resource management in Switzerland

Eleven major stakeholders from the political and business spheres and from authorities and society in general have taken part in a dialogue to address the future challenges of waste and resource management. This resulted in the distillation of eleven guiding principles. As initiator and board member of Swiss Recycling, Andreas Röthlisberger, President of our Board of Trustees was able to actively participate in the resource trialogue.

Switzerland is an intensive user of resources. Because it is also a country with few raw materials, recovery of secondary raw materials is extremely important. Thankfully, we are able to obtain these materials in an economically sustainable way from various types of waste. In the past, according to the Swiss waste model of 1986 (“avoid, reduce, reuse, dispose”), the focus has always been on waste as waste, but now, waste is increasingly being seen and treated as resources. Therefore, the resource trialogue aims to pave the way for a resource-based model for 2030, which will make an important contribution to establishing a sustainable circular economy in Switzerland.

As a result, solutions that can be adopted by the majority of people have been sought in the interests of society, the economy and the environment. In our highly developed country, we need solutions that help minimise the use of energy and materials in the manufacture of products and in the provision of services, that extend the service life of products, and help avoid or utilise waste wherever possible. The resource trialogue was created on the initiative of Swiss Recycling and the Association of Plant Managers and Operation Companies of Swiss Waste Treatment Installations (VBSA) in cooperation with the Canton of Aargau, whose Director of Construction Stephan Attiger agreed to host and chair it. It was supported by eleven stakeholders from the economic and political spheres and society.

Eleven guiding principles
The project was launched in 2014. The participants had a wide range of different interests and expectations. It took three years. With much patience, the seemingly unsolvable puzzle was solved: finding a common path for a sustainable resource management. Thanks to excellent moderation, the participants were able to come to a consensus and agree on eleven guiding principles despite their many differences. These are the eleven guiding principles on Swiss resource and waste management 2030:

  • Principle 1: Business and society act autonomously and of their own free will.
  • Principle 2: Fair competition between the market participants is sought when recycling waste.
  • Principle 3: Waste generation is avoided whenever possible.
  • Principle 4: Raw materials circulate optimally in cycles.
  • Principle 5: Producers, consumers and other parties are responsible for the environmental impact of products throughout the entire life cycle.
  • Principle 6: Primary and secondary raw materials in Switzerland are managed sustainably.
  • Principle 7: Measures to prevent or recycle waste are prioritised with respect to their ecological and economic efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Principle 8: Transparency in the financial and material flows forms the basis for optimisation of the disposal systems.
  • Principle 9: High standards are maintained for the recycling and treatment of waste.
  • Principle 10: The design and further development of the disposal systems aim to optimise costs, environmental benefits and customer friendliness.
  • Principle 11: Thanks to innovation and cutting-edge technologies, Swiss resource and waste management is having a huge impact around the world.

Now we need to put our words into action. It is up to those involved in the project to make the guiding principles an integral part of their organisations, to take them forward and launch their own projects.

Andreas Röthlisberger
Präsident Stiftung SENS

Three questions for Andreas Röthlisberger

Andreas Röthlisberger is the founder and President of the SENS Foundation. As a board member of Swiss Recycling, he was also heavily involved in the creation of the resource trialogue.

You initiated the resource trialogue. What motivated you to do this?
Thirty years ago, SENS was the first organisation to implement manufacturer responsibility (for manufacturers, importers and retailers), ensuring that products that have become waste are disposed of in the best possible way and that they can be reintroduced into the cycle in compliance with the relevant environmental regulations.

The methodology of the “Energy Trialogue”, in which Aargau played a leading role, inspired me to start a similar process for waste resources. The term circular economy is on everyone’s lips. What we need to do is bring the key players together: the manufacturers and importers, the retailers, the federal and cantonal authorities and the entire recycling sector, including the NGOs. Swiss Recycling and the VBSA were on board. When the Director of Construction of the Canton of Aargau, Stephan Attiger, agreed to host and chair the trialogue, that marked the start of the project.

Eleven stakeholders from the political and business spheres and from authorities and society in general are involved in the resource trialogue, all with different needs and expectations. What did working together look like and what were the challenges?
Expectations were high, and the challenges were correspondingly great. Because we used the trialogue methodology, according to which the aim is always to understand the statements of all others and accept them, even if you cannot agree, and because we used a good mix of workshops in smaller groups and plenary sessions, it was always possible to reach a consensus between all participants at each stage. External moderation was also a key factor in the trialogue’s success. In the end, the highlight of the experience for all those involved was the fact that they were able to reach a consensus again and again, right up to the end.

They participants talk about responsibility and the fact that business and society act of their own free will. Why do you think this approach will be more successful than a governmental solution?
Today, in Europe and around the world, it is acknowledged that producer responsibility is the cornerstone of any circular economy. With SENS, Switzerland was the first country to implement this principle – and it did so voluntarily. The reason the concept works so well is that it is based on a natural law: “I reap what I sow.” No one is in a better position to ensure that components, secondary raw materials or energy can be recovered from the product they put on the market than the business providing it. They are responsible. Whether they actually perform the process themselves or contract others to do it for them is irrelevant. However, the consumer also has to take responsibility. Consumer responsibility is the counterpart to producer responsibility. If the consumer is in a position to be able to buy complex products such as an IT system or other electronic appliances, they are also in a position to be able to bring those items to the right place for recycling at the end of their life cycle. Logically, they should also be aware that they not only have to pay for the consumption of the product, but also for its recycling.

Governmental solutions relieve the economy of its responsibility, reducing that responsibility to financing. This is not an option because we cannot speak of a circular economy in Switzerland if we undermine the most important basis for that economy, namely producer responsibility.

The resource trialogue

The trialogue was launched in 2014 by the Canton of Aargau, the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the trade association economiesuisse on the initiative of Swiss Recycling and the VBSA. What makes the resource trialogue so unique is its consensus-oriented approach and the method behind the process. In order to ensure a level playing field, the trialogue was moderated by an external party. The resource trialogue addresses the question of what Swiss waste and resource management will look like as part of the circular economy in 2030. Eleven stakeholders were involved:

  • Federal Office for the Environment (Bundesamt für Umwelt – FOEN)
  • chemsuisse
  • economiesuisse
  • Association of the Swiss Aggregate and Concrete Industry (Fachverband der Schweizerischen Kies- und Betonindustrie – FSKB)
  • The Industrial Union for Retail Switzerland (IG Detailhandel Schweiz)
  • Swiss Conference of Heads of Swiss Environmental Protection Agencies (Konferenz der Vorsteher der Umweltschutzämter der Schweiz – KVU)
  • Organisation for Communal Infrastructure (Organisation Kommunale Infrastruktur – OKI)
  • Construction Materials Recycling Switzerland (arv Baustoffrecycling Schweiz – ARV)
  • The Swiss Foundation for Practical Environmental Protection Pusch/WWF Switzerland/Cosedec
  • Swiss Recycling
  • Association of Plant Managers and Operation Companies of Swiss Waste Treatment Installations (Verband der Betriebsleiter und Betreiber Schweizerischer Abfallbehandlungsanlagen – VBSA)