Saturday fun at the Gemeindesammelstelle


“Doug, tell us about the recycling situation over there in … uh, where do you live?”*

I live in Switzerland, a country that is sometimes confused with Sweden (which is well north of here) and even Swaziland (which is well south). Mail intended for me from senders in the U.S. has gone to both places, a story I’ll tell in another blog post.

But back to recycling.

As it turns out, the community recycling center (known here as the “Gemeindesammelstelle,” a good example of why German-speaking people will never win at Scrabble) is a busy place on Saturday morning.

I went today with a large carpet remnant that – how should I put it? – no longer fits our design needs. I loaded it into the back of our Volvo station wagon and drove over.

Surprisingly, I had to wait in a long line, with the car engine switched off, but was eventually allowed in. I parked and carried the remnant over to a scale and learned that leaving the remnant in the capable hands of the Gemeindesamm…I mean, community recycling center, would cost me eleven Swiss francs and some change.

Just to fill in the blanks about recycling, I take our glass and cans each week to a long row of containers next to the train station, and there I sort the glass – green, brown, clear, etc. Happily, this doesn’t cost me anything and has become a satisfying weekly ritual. What can’t be recycled goes into special bags we buy at the grocery store, and then a tag is affixed to the bag before it’s tossed into the waste container.

To sum up, then, recycling is a priority here. And the Swiss appear happy to do it. The results, after all, can be seen everywhere. It’s a clean, attractive country. The air, water, and land are testimonies to what can happen when a high value is placed on – well, clean air, water, and land.

I was asked recently by some youth at the church if it was true, as they have heard, that when Americans throw something away they simply roll down their car windows and toss it out.

To answer I used a response that I’ve had to cultivate because of similar questions about guns, politicians who are actually proud of never taking a science class, etc. I say, “Well, it’s complicated.”

*A question I have never been asked.


About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


8 Responses to Saturday fun at the Gemeindesammelstelle

  1. Jodi July 12, 2014 at 5:21 am #

    Well, you drive a Volvo…no wonder people think you live in Sweden! Cracks me up since most people think we live in Switzerland! Sweden has similar recycling opportunities and values. When I’m back in the US, I always feel so weird just throwing away everything…it’s also true…if you make it accessible, I believe most people would indeed enjoy the habit of recycling.

  2. Doug July 12, 2014 at 5:28 am #

    Good morning, Jodi. I added your “Across the Pond” blog to my favorites list. It’s been fun to read about another pastor serving an international church. But – too bad – we couldn’t get the new sitcom “Welcome to Sweden” this week. BBC is still showing Kojak re-runs. Good to hear from you!

  3. Don Wagner July 12, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    Good morning Doug. I love your “complicated” response. Just finished reading “I Heard It At The Potluck” and am sharing it with Palm Beach State College colleagues. Best, Don

  4. Heidi Gagnon July 17, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    When you move you will have to introduce the Swiss to the “Garage Sale” concept!

    • Doug July 17, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      I will have to blog sometime about the “Broki” which is a store where all household goods seem to go for second-hand sale. No garage sales, yard sales! You won’t be surprised that Susan shopped in all the Brokis for miles – excuse me, kilometers – around!

  5. Georgia Hamilton July 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Doug, you didn’t mention plastic; the Swiss are so efficient they surely do something with that as well! I’ve enjoyed your blogs about places and things .


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