Swico Verband

Questions & Answers

1. What provisions apply in Switzerland for the disposal of used electric appliances?

The recycling principles are based upon the Ordinance on the Return, Taking Back and Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ORDEE), which came into force on 1 July 1998. The aim of this ordinance is to ensure that electrical and electronic appliances do not end up in the municipal waste and that they are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

This predominantly relates to electrically operated

  1. consumer electronic appliances;
  2. devices used in office, information and communication technology;
  3. household appliances;
  4. lights;
  5. lamps (not including bulbs);
  6. tools (not including large stationary industrial tools);
  7. sport and leisure equipment as well as toys

and electronic components in appliances and lighting ballasts containing PCBs.

The ORDEE stipulates the following:

  • Companies or private individuals who wish to dispose of an appliance must return it to a dealer, the manufacturer or importer, a disposal company or a collection point for electric appliances.
  • During their opening hours, dealers must take back at no cost to the customer appliances of the kind that they sell in their own range. The customer does not necessarily need to have purchased the appliance from this dealer and nor does he have to purchase a new item.
  • Manufacturers and importers must take back free of charge any appliances they have manufactured or brands they have imported.
  • The returned appliances must be disposed of properly.

2. How do the provisions in Switzerland differ from those in the EU?

The EU first launched a WEEE Directive in 2002. The EU provisions with regard to take-back obligations are far less restrictive and give the individual member states considerable scope. The EU has now introduced binding collection volumes (this does not exist in Switzerland). The target collection volumes are significantly higher than the previous collection volumes in the EU; however, they are still much lower than the Swiss volumes (around 85%).

WEEE is a globally used English abbreviation that stands for “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment”. WEEE recycling relates to the disposal of old electrical and electronic appliances.

3. How does the Swico Recycling disposal system work?

Manufacturers and importers impose the advance recycling fee (ARF) on appliances sold in Switzerland and in the Principality of Liechtenstein (for more on the ARF, see Question 18). This is then passed on to the end consumers by distributors and dealers.

By paying the ARF, the end customer is authorised to hand in his used appliance at a specialist dealer, manufacturer, importer or collection point free of charge. The collection points forward the appliances to a Swico recycling partner. Companies in Switzerland and in the Principality of Liechtenstein can fill out the collection order form for this purpose at www.swicorecycling.ch.

The recycling partners dismantle the appliances, remove any components that contain pollutants and break the remaining parts into small pieces so that the valuable substances can be retrieved.

This process is financed by the advance recycling fee, which the levying manufacturers and importers forward in full to Swico Recycling.

4. Which categories of devices is Swico Recycling responsible for?

Swico Recycling disposes of scrapped devices from offices, the IT, consumer electronics, communication and graphics industry, as well as the measurement and medical technology sector. The exact list can be found on the home page.

The association Stiftung Entsorgung Schweiz (SENS) is responsible for household devices, and Stiftung Lichtrecycling Schweiz (SLRS) is responsible for lights and lamps.

5. What costs and effort will I face as a manufacturer or importer?

As the advance recycling fee is charged to the end customers, you do not incur any costs in principle. In terms of the internal effort required, this includes initially entering the ARF tariffs in your billing system, updating the tariffs to reflect any changes and including the ARF receipts in your half-yearly reporting.

6. How can I join the Swico Recycling disposal system?

All companies that manufacture the electrical and electronic appliances on the list specified under Question 4 in Switzerland or in the Principality of Liechtenstein or that import such devices to these countries are eligible to join.

The rights and obligations are included in the recycling of electrical and electronic appliances convention as well as in the associated practical guidelines. After studying both these documents, the company must complete and duly sign the declaration of membership and submit it to Swico Recycling. The members of Swico Recycling are referred to as convention signatories. You can call up the documents here.

Membership of the Swico association is not a prerequisite.

7. Is there an alternative take-back system to Swico Recycling?

No. While there are competing systems in some other countries, this makes no sense in Switzerland. The small size of the market, the high logistics costs as a result of a very dense network of collection points and the effort involved in communicating in multiple languages would make it a very laborious task to run several systems (as would the necessary clearing between the systems).

8. What happens if we do not (or do not want to) join Swico Recycling?

The ORDEE stipulates that manufacturers and importers that do not pay contributions to a private organisation such as Swico Recycling must dispose of any appliances taken back at their own cost. Furthermore, they must keep a record of the number of appliances sold and taken back and be able to provide documentary evidence that they have disposed of the appliances returned. Upon request, they are obliged to grant the federal office or the cantons access to these documents covering the last five years.

All in all, the cost of disposing of appliances independently is far higher than through membership with Swico Recycling, if the statutory regulations are adhered to. Otherwise, the company risks a loss of reputation and the imposing of sanctions by the cantonal authorities.

9. What is the market coverage of Swico Recycling?

Swico Recycling has a market coverage of well over 90%. All major companies signed the convention a long time ago or arrange for the advance recycling fee to be levied via the wholesale trade. The list of convention signatories is publicly available.

10. Will I face any competitive disadvantages as a result of the ARF?

The ARF does not impact upon competitiveness, as it is paid by more than 90% of manufacturers and importers, and an alternative system would be more expensive.

Swico Recycling recommends stating the ARF separately on price lists, quotations and invoices, or at least mentioning it. When dealing with end consumers, the provisions of the Ordinance on the Disclosure of Prices must be observed. This stipulates that the ARF must be included in the advertised price. By listing the ARF (as part of the total price), the consumer is also assured that the seller is engaged in a proper recycling programme.

11. How has the ARF developed over the last few years? Are there plans to increase the fee?

The ARF can be adjusted annually, on 1 January or 1 June, following a notice period of at least six months, to meet the requirements. Any adjustments are announced at least 12 months in advance. The convention signatories have the opportunity to comment upon the proposed changes beforehand.

12. Why are the disposal costs for used electric appliances higher in Switzerland than in the EU?

In order to compare the various recycling systems, it is important that comparisons are not solely based upon the costs and recycling fees. They should also take into account which services (transport, batteries, packaging) are included and what objectives and requirements (occupational safety, processing depth and quality) the organisation has set.

The pricing in Switzerland is more expensive overall than in the EU for the following reasons:

  • The network of collection points is far more dense: In Switzerland, devices can (due to legal requirements) be handed in at a total of 6,000 collection points. In particular, the take-back obligation across all trade, which does not (yet) exist in the EU, significantly increases the collection and logistics costs. However, this also enables a far higher response rate than in the EU (see Answer 2). In principle, the fewer used appliances are returned, the cheaper the system. However, this should not be the objective of a recycling system!
  • The small size of the country results in higher fixed costs, the challenging topography in more expensive transportation and the additional multi-lingual effort in additional expenditure for communication activities and awareness campaigns.
  • The regulatory requirements in Switzerland are stricter. As a pioneer in the disposal of used electric appliances, Switzerland has continued to develop the regulations according to technical possibilities. This has not been achieved to the same extent in the EU.
  • The cost of living and wages are generally higher in Switzerland.

13. What influence can the convention signatories have upon Swico Recycling?

The supreme body of Swico Recycling is the Swico Recycling Board, which is comprised of representatives from the convention signatories, whereby all company sizes, sectors and value creation stages are adequately represented.

14. How can I terminate my membership with Swico Recycling? What are the consequences?

The Swico Recycling Convention can be terminated at the end of a calendar year, under observation of a six-month notice period. If you no longer manufacture or import appliances, there are no consequences if you leave the convention.

If you continue to manufacture or import appliances and sell them in Switzerland or in the Principality of Liechtenstein, you must adhere to the provisions of the ORDEE (see Answer 8).

15. What is the relationship between Swico as a trade association for ICT providers and Swico Recycling?

Swico Recycling is a neutral, not-for-profit organisation that was founded by and is operated by the Swico association.

16. We are already a Swico member. Does this change anything in the area of recycling?

Memberships of the Swico association and Swico Recycling are completely independent of each other.

17. Why was Swico Recycling created?

Swico Recycling was set up as a voluntary system on 1 December 1993 by a majority of the members of the Swico association. The reasons for this were the increasing needs of the customer to be able to easily return appliances of all brands to one location, as well as the knowledge among importers and manufacturers that priority needed to be given to a joint system, for reasons of efficiency.

The solution was launched on 1 April 1994 and covered office electronics and the IT sector. Initially 36 companies were involved. Since then a number of other areas have been added and more than 500 signatories have joined:

1999: Mobile phones

2000: Graphics industry

2001: Telephone equipment and phone boxes

2002: Consumer electronics and photography

2004: Dental equipment

2006: Medical/measuring equipment, safety technology, musical instruments

18. At Swico Recycling, reference is made to the advance recycling fee as well as the advance recycling contribution. Do they mean the same thing?

Yes. This is for historical reasons. When Swico Recycling was set up, the cost for disposal levied on the purchase price was described as the “advance recycling fee (ARF)”, and this term has always been used for the last two decades. It has become a common household term throughout Switzerland and is also the standard term among manufacturers and importers. As it would require a lot of effort to change this in their IT systems and also at Swico, we continue to use this term with them. However, the term “fee” is in fact incorrect, as fees are governmental, whereas Swico Recycling is a voluntary system. For this reason, the authorities have also started to use another term over the last few years: “Advance recycling contribution (ARC)”. This definition makes particular sense because the term “advance disposal fee (ADF)” also exists, which is reserved for state-regulated systems (e.g. batteries).

Josefstrasse 218 Tel. +41 44 446 90 94
8005 Zürich info@swicorecycling.ch