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Swico Recycling system

Swico Recycling is a voluntary, cooperative system for taking back waste equipment. It has been operated successfully since 1994 by Swiss manufacturers and importers in the IT, office equipment, consumer electronics and photo/film sectors.

General information

Televisions that are no longer used and computers that are scrapped contain a variety of valuable raw materials that can be reused. At the same time, pollutants in the equipment need to be removed to avoid detrimental effects on people’s health and on the environment. Swico Recycling guarantees that all equipment handed into dealers or handed in at official collection points will be recycled in line with environmental guidelines.

It is estimated that tens of millions of tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment is thrown away worldwide each year. And the figure is expected to double over the next ten years. What makes electronic waste so difficult to deal with is the fact that some of it poses huge problems for people and the environment.

The extent to which effects of the pollutant substances are harmful very much depends on the recycling process. Waste electrical and electronic equipment must be professionally dismantled, and the components containing harmful substances removed and disposed of separately, in order to protect people as well as the soil, water and air.

Swico Recycling guarantees that electrical and electronic waste in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein is recycled in line with the latest technological findings. And in Switzerland to boot. Switzerland’s disposal model is considered exemplary worldwide. In 2018, Swico Recycling recycled a good 46,000 tonnes of used electrical and electronic equipment.

Swico Recycling is a not-for-profit, national system for taking back scrapped waste electrical and electronic equipment used in the IT, consumer electronics, office equipment, communications, graphic design, measurement technology and medical technology sectors. It is operated by Swico, the Swiss Economic Association for the Suppliers of Information, Communication and Organisational Technology.

Swico Recycling’s advance recycling contribution (ARC) concept ensures that disposal is included in a product’s purchase price from the outset and that the consumer does not, therefore, incur any further costs when returning it.

Swico Recycling ensures that waste equipment is disposed of professionally in Switzerland. Pollutants are neutralised, recyclable materials are recovered and material cycles are thus closed.

Swico Recycling has integrated more than 90% of the products sold in Switzerland into the system through active market cultivation, which leads to cost advantages and high efficiency compared to individual solutions from manufacturers and importers.

Swico Recycling ensures a level playing field between competitors by allowing manufacturers and importers to charge an identical ARC for similar products regardless of their share of the market.

As a take-back system, Swico Recycling works closely with retailers, private and public collection points, logistics and recycling companies, as well as specialist environment agencies and auditors.

Swico Recycling finances a network of around 7,000 take-back points throughout Switzerland, which significantly cuts the cost and shortens the travel distances involved in returning waste equipment free of charge. This makes it easy for consumers to behave in an environmentally friendly manner.

Swico Recycling ensures that over 50,000 tonnes of unwrapped waste equipment is professionally disposed of every year. Around CHF 30 million annually is allocated to collection points, transport companies, dismantling companies, recycling companies and inspection experts in Switzerland.

Swico Recycling ensures the system’s financial stability independently of the individual manufacturers and importers through reserves that guarantee operation for at least 12 months even if no income is generated.

Swico Recycling has been an internationally recognised model for take-back systems since it was established, as it is characterised by high collection and recycling rates, strict processing rules and quality inspections, as well as investments in research and development.

On behalf of various cantons, Swico Recycling checks that collection points are complying with the law in the sense of ‘delegated enforcement’ by including the systems’ relevant audits in the assessment conducted by the environmental agencies. At present, this task is performed for the cantons of Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Basel-Land, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Zug and Zurich.

Swico Recycling has over 500 Convention signatories: manufacturers and importers from Switzerland and abroad, covering over 90% of the Swiss market. This ensures that discarded products are taken back through dealers and collection points and are sent for professional recycling.

Previously, if you handed in electronic equipment for disposal, you had to pay a fee. This meant that many consumers simply dumped their disused equipment by the side of the road. Under the auspices of Swico, the six largest importers of IT and copying machines got together at the beginning of the 1990s to solve the problem. Representatives of the former Swiss Federal Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL) and the Swiss Consumer Protection Foundation (SKS) were also involved. An advance recycling fee (ARF) was proposed as a solution and the Swico recycling system was developed to ensure that electrical and electronic equipment could be taken back free of charge.

You could say that! What started out with six members has continually grown in size, as well as in terms of its market coverage and professionalism. Swico Recycling’s system for taking back equipment now covers the whole of Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Manufacturers and importers of electrical and electronic equipment in Switzerland and abroad have signed the Swico Recycling Convention, so that discarded electrical and electronic equipment can be disposed of in line with environmental guidelines and with a view to conserving resources.

The professional approach towards electrical and electronic recycling has given rise to a new profession: recycler. Some 100 young people are currently completing the three-year apprenticeship required for this profession in Switzerland. In addition, dismantling companies in the sector now provide employment for more than 1,000 people who are socially disadvantaged and/or physically disabled in our society (e.g. back-to-work projects or workshops for the disabled, etc.).

Electrical and electronic equipment contains many different substances. On the one hand, they contain recyclables, i.e. reusable materials. Steel, aluminium and copper account for most of these. Some plastics can be reused too, as can the precious metals in the equipment, of course.

Some of the substances are hazardous if they come into contact with air, water or the ground. There are also other substances that are made up of a variety of components, some of which are harmful and even carcinogenic. These substances include halogenated compounds such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in capacitors and transformers, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in cable insulation, lithium in batteries, cadmium in toner cartridges and printing ink or selenium in photocopiers. An advance recycling fee (ARF) has thus been levied in Switzerland on new electronic and electrical equipment since 1994. The fee is used to recycle equipment in line with environmental guidelines, recover materials and appropriately dispose of non-reusable materials and pollutants. 

Electronic devices – particularly PCs, notebooks, tablets and smartphones – usually contain a large amount of personal data. Steps must be taken to prevent unauthorised individuals from seeing or even using this data, including after the devices have been disposed of. All of Swico Recycling’s contract partners are therefore contractually bound to protect the data on the collected devices against unauthorised access. The collection points, transporters, recyclers and supervisory bodies must implement specific measures to ensure that this is done. This also includes, for example, the requirement that the collected devices be stored under lock and key.

But you can also take precautions yourself: Also see  link data protection

Swico is responsible for scrapped waste electrical and electronic equipment used in the IT, consumer electronics, office equipment, communications, graphic design, measurement technology and medical technology sectors. In Switzerland, SENS is responsible for household appliances, while SLRS is responsible for lamps and lights. You can find the exact list of equipment here:  Link to the list of equipment

No separate costs are incurred for the disposal. You already pay for disposal in the form of an advance recycling fee when you buy electrical equipment. You can find an overview of the tariffs applied here:  Link to tariffs

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Christin Huber

Christin Huber

+41 44 446 90 84

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