Friday, May 24, 2013

The mundane: garbage, recycling and groceries

We are not tourists - we are residents of Switzerland. We have had to learn and follow the many rules of this country. Many of the rules seem silly to us, but "them's the rules!"

Disposing of waste is complicated! We live in an apartment with dumpsters out front, but we must discard things properly. The green dumpster is for "bio" or plant based waste. Here we put any dead flowers, vegetable or fruit peels and coffee grounds. We discovered that there are biodegradable bags for sale to line the "bio-bin" in the garbage collection area under the sink. The bags make emptying the bio-bin much easier and more pleasant. 

under sink garbage sorting compartments
What do we do with "garbage" that doesn't fit into a bag for the dumpster? Good question. We currently have a broken ironing board and exercise machine in the basement.  There is a recycling center in a neighboring town that might take them for disposal, but we'd have to pay. For now, they sit and wait.

Surprisingly, there are fewer things recycled here. Not surprisingly, recycling is complicated. There are recycling depositories around towns and near train stations. Here you sort the glass between white (clear), green and brown. There is also a container for metal (aluminum or tin cans and jar lids). Some of these centers are within fences that are locked on Sunday. Others are out in the open, but rest assured, you do NOT recycle on Sunday. It's a rule. I know someone who was scolded by a Swiss person for recycling at the train station on a Sunday. Really.

We can also recycle plastic drink bottles, but they have to be returned to a grocery store with the labels removed. At the grocery stores, there are also slots for old batteries, water filter cartridges or empty whipped cream cans! 

Other empty plastic containers? (shampoo, salad dressing, dish detergent) Too bad - all go into the regular garbage! This garbage must be in the appropriate bag and then put in the silver dumpster. Our bags are special for Horgen; therefore, they are only for sale in Horgen. If I go to get groceries in a neighboring town, I can't buy the Horgen bags there. We've heard stories about the garbage people leaving wrong bags curbside and tenants being fined for using the wrong bags! They are serious about this rule too.

It's always a challenge to find your way in a new grocery store or a recently rearranged store.  In another country, it's tougher. Suffice it to say, the first grocery trips took a long time. I had to sight-see my way through the stores to try to find everything on my list. Sometimes the packaging is so different, it's hard to recognize the product or the stock is arranged in a different way - another challenge. Who would put coffee filters near the plastic bags and wraps and not with the coffee? Not me! 

A very good idea that we've seen all over Europe is the carts chained together. A token or coin must be inserted to release a cart. Return the cart and recover the token or coin. There are never parking lots over run with grocery carts. Produce is weighed by the customer. You have to check the code number on the display and then choose that number at the scale. Forgot to weigh? There is a scale near the cashiers, but rest assured eyes will roll at you.

And about those cashiers...they stay seated and do not help bag your groceries. There is a divider on their counter. Your groceries go on one side and you have to bag them. It's a sad day if you're not done before the person after you is done. Then the cashier has no place to put the next customer's choices. Of course, if she helped you...

There have been many days when I go to both of the main grocery stores in Horgen because they don't both have all the things on my list. On other days, I go to a store with better prices, but they don't have a full line of groceries so I must continue on to finish the shopping somewhere else. I've figured out how and where to find most of the things we want. Price is another problem. Meat, especially beef, is very expensive here so if we're going to France or Germany, we usually get some meat there. Obviously, all of these chores are time consuming,

Just for fun, I'll let you know about a few other ways you can get yourself into trouble.
Trains all have first class and second class areas. Obviously, first class costs more, but offers little for the expense. If you're traveling to another country, maybe it's worth it, but the local trains are not. Most days tickets are on the honor system, but you don't want to be in first class by mistake when the spot check of tickets happens. You can't just excuse yourself and move to second class - at least not without paying a fine (80 CHF per person!). Be careful when driving. If your car is beyond the white stop line at a traffic light, the fine for that is steep too. We've also been told that they are not lenient about speeding. You may get a ticket for driving just a couple kilometers above the speed limit. We use the cruise control regularly to keep us from going too fast. So far so good - we haven't been fined for doing anything wrong...yet.