Swico Verband

Questions & Answers

1. What does WEEE recycling mean?

WEEE is an English abbreviation that is used worldwide and stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. WEEE recycling is, therefore, the disposal of used electrical and electronic equipment.

2. What provisions apply in Switzerland regarding WEEE recycling?

Recycling is based on the Regulation on Returning, Tacking Back and Disposing of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (VREG), which came into force on 1 July 1998. This regulation aims to ensure that electrical and electronic equipment does not end up in residential waste, and that such equipment is disposed of in line with environmental requirements.

This applies to electrically-operated

a) household electronic equipment;

b) office, information and communications technology equipment;

c) domestic equipment;

d) lights;

e) lighting fixtures (without light bulbs);

f) tools (excluding stationary industrial large-scale tools);

g) sports and leisure equipment, including games

as well as electronic elements of equipment and ballasts in lights containing PCBs.

VREG provides for the following:

  • Companies or private individuals who wish to dispose of equipment must hand it in to a dealer, the manufacturer or importer, a disposal company or a group collection point for electronic equipment.
  • Dealers must take back free of charge equipment of the kind they stock throughout the opening hours. The customer need not have purchased the equipment from a respective dealer, and is not required to purchase new equipment.
  • Manufacturers and importers must take back free of charge the equipment of the brands that they manufacture or import.
  • The equipment that is taken back must be disposed of professionally.

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

The EU has only had a WEEE Directive in place since 2002, which was amended in 2012. In terms of obligations to take back equipment, the EU provisions are less restrictive and give the respective EM Member States relatively broad scope for interpretation. The EU has now introduced binding group quotas (which are not a known entity in Switzerland). At 45%, the envisaged group quotas are significantly higher than the group quotas in place to date in the EU, but still considerably lower than the Swiss quotas (about 85%).

4. How does the Swico Recycling take back system work?

Manufacturers and importers impose the Advance Recycling Fee (ARF) on equipment sold in Switzerland and in the Principality of Liechtenstein. These costs are passed on to end users by distributors and dealers.

By way of paying the ARF, the end user is entitled to hand in his used equipment free of charge to manufacturers and importers or at a collection point. The collection points forward the equipment to one of the Swico recycling partners. Companies in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein can complete the collection order in that respect at www.swicorecycling.ch.

At the recycling company the equipment is dismantled, components containing pollutants are removed and the other parts are taken apart so that recoverable materials therein can be salvaged.

This process is financed via the Advance Recycling Fee, which the manufacturers and importers that impose it pass on in full to Swico Recycling.

5. For which equipment categories is Swico Recycling responsible?

Swico Recycling disposes of used equipment from the Office, Informatics, Consumer Electronics, Communication, Graphics Industry and Measurement and Medicine Technology areas. The detailed list can be viewed on the homepage.

The SENS Foundation (SENS) is responsible for disposing of domestic equipment, while the Swiss Lighting Recycling Foundation (SLRS) is responsible for disposing of lights and light fittings.

6. What costs and labour input should I expect as a manufacturer or importer?

As a matter of principle no costs are incurred because the Advance Recycling Fee is passed on to the end user. The minimum ARF charge for all manufacturers or importers to cover the basic expenses of Swico Recycling is CHF 500.00 each year.

As far as the labour input is concerned, this includes the one-off entering of the ARF tariffs in the settlement system, making adjustments to these tariffs that may be required and the six-monthly reporting of ARF proceeds.

7. How can I join Swico Recycling's take back system?

All companies that manufacture the electrical and electronic equipment from the areas stated in Item 5 in Switzerland or the Principality of Liechtenstein, or import them to these countries, may join.

Rights and obligations are set out in the Convention on Recycling Electrical and Electronic Equipment and in the appertaining practical guideline. After reviewing both these documents, the enrolment form needs to be completed, signed with a legally-binding signature and forwarded to Swico Recycling. Swico Recycling members are called convention signatories. The three documents can be viewed here.

Membership in the Swico Association is not a requirement.

8. Is there another take back system as an alternative to Swico Recycling?

No. While in other countries systems that partially compete with each other are in place, this makes no sense in Switzerland. The small scale of the market, high logistics costs due to a very dense collection point network and expenses due to the different languages spoken in the country would render a variety of systems (plus the necessary clearing between the systems) extremely expensive.

9. What happens if we do not (or do not want to) become members of Swico?

VREG specifies that manufacturers and importers that to not pay contributions to a private organisation such as Swico Recycling are to dispose of the equipment taken back at their own cost. In addition, they are required to maintain a list of the quantity of equipment that they sell and take back, and must be able to furnish proof that they have forwarded for recycling the equipment they have taken back. They undertake, on request, to grant the Swiss Federal Office or the cantons the right to inspect these documents for the last five years.

All in all, the cost of going it alone is considerably higher than becoming a member of Swico Recycling insofar as the statutory regulations are adhered to. Otherwise, companies run the risk of damaging their reputation and being fined by the cantonal authorities.

10. How well does Swico Recycling cover the market?

The Swico Recycling market coverage is significantly above 90%. All the major companies have been convention signatories for some time, or make arrangements for the ARF to be imposed via wholesalers.

11. Will I suffer competitive disadvantages as a result of the ARF?

The ARF is not detrimental to competitiveness because it is imposed by more than 90 % of manufacturers or importers, and an alternative system would be more expensive.

Swico Recycling recommends that the ARF be stated separately on price lists, offers and invoices or that it at least be stated. The provisions of the Price Disclosure Regulation (PBV) are to be complied with in transactions with end users. This regulation specifies that the ARF must be included in the stated price. By way of additionally incorporating the ARF, consumers can be certain that the seller also supports appropriate recycling.

12. How has the ARF developed over the last few years? Are increases planned?

The ARF may be adjusted once a year in line with requirements, to take effect on 1 January or 1 June, by way of advance notice of at least six months.

The ARF has been regularly reduced over the last few years. Lastly as per 01.01.2012 on average by 15%. Increases are currently not planned.

13. Why are the WEEE recycling costs higher in Switzerland than in the EU?

When comparing the various recycling systems, consideration should not only be given to costs or recycling fees. A comparison should also address the services (transport, batteries, packaging) that are included and what kind of goals and requirements (occupational safety, processing depth and quality) the organisation has set itself.

Therefore, WEEE recycling in Switzerland is, overall, more expensive than in the EU:

  • The collection point network is considerably denser: in Switzerland, equipment can be handed in at a total of 6,000 locations. The obligation on the part of the entire trade to take back equipment, which is not (yet) proposed in the EU, considerably increases the collection and logistics costs. However, this also facilitates a significantly higher take up quota than in the EU (see answer 3). In principle, the lower the quantity of used equipment handed in, the more cost-effective a system is. However, this cannot be the goal of a recycling system!
  • The small-scale nature of the country gives rise to higher fixed costs, the demanding topography creates more expensive transport operations and the fact that several languages are spoken means higher costs for communication and familiarisation campaigns.
  • Regulatory requirements are more stringent in Switzerland. As a pioneer in WEEE recycling, Switzerland constantly further developed the requirements in line with the technical options, which did not apply to that extent in the EU.
  • The cost of living and wages are generally higher in Switzerland.

14. How can the convention signatories exert an influence on Swico Recycling?

The uppermost executive body of Swiss Recycling is the "Swico Recycling Board", which is made up exclusively of convention signatories. All company sizes, sectors and added value levels are appropriately represented in the Environmental Commission.

15. How can I leave Swico Recycling? What are the consequences of leaving?

Membership in the Swico Recycling Convention can be cancelled by way of serving six months' notice to take effect at the end of a calendar year. If you no longer manufacture or import equipment, leaving the Swico Recycling Convention will not have any consequences.

If equipment continues to be manufactured or imported and sold in Switzerland or the Principality of Liechtenstein, the VREG requirements will need to be adhered to (see answer 9).

16. How is Swico in its capacity of an economic association linked to the ICT supplier and Swico Recycling?

Swico Recycling is a neutral, not-for-profit commission of the Swico Association.

17. We are already a Swico member. Does that change anything in the recycling sector?

Membership in the Swico Association and Swico Recycling are independent of each other.

18. How was Swico Recycling created historically?

Swico Recycling was established on 1 December 1993 by a majority of the members of the Swico Association as a voluntary system. It came about because of the increasing needs of customers to easily hand back equipment of all kinds of brands, and the realisation by importers and manufacturers that preference should be given to a joint system.

The solution came into force on 1 April 1994 for the Office Electronics and IT areas. At the start, 36 companies took part. In the meantime, several areas and more than 500 signatories have been added.

1999: Mobile telephones

2000: Graphics Industry

2001: Telephone Equipment and Public Telephones

2002: Consumer Electronics and Photo

2004: Dental Equipment

2006: Medical/Measurement Equipment, Security Technology, Musical Instruments

1.3.13 Ver. 1 /ck/hh

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