Though I have noticed many sustainable practices in Zürich and Basel, this does not make Switzerland some beautiful exception to the reality that is the developed world. Most of the litter I see is concentrated in areas of construction (above). I am not sure what they do with the discarded construction materials, but there are also things like plastic bags that gather here (in much lower quantities relative to what I have seen in the states). There is hardly ever liter on the streets. Maybe some beer cans on Sunday morning from the night before, but they disappear promptly. This is probably because I often see street sweepers (people and machines). I have even seen at least 7 people walking in the city without shoes or socks!
The amount of construction around the cities I have been to is almost as common as the amount of graffiti covering the buildings (more construction and way more graffiti than I see in Chicago or Indianapolis). However, I want to emphasize that I feel really safe here, and I have been told by many that brutal crime is almost nonexistent. The graffiti (I am told by two other students at ETH) is usually an expression of political disapproval or even contempt through disobedience. It can also be some really cool art. This isn’t too far off from what we see in the states, but I know that tags can be associated with other brutal crimes. From what I was told, that is not usually the case here.
The most surprising thing to me is that I have seen more public recycling containers around in Chicago (maybe Indianapolis) than here. There are plenty of places to recycle- by my flat, in ETH buildings, and in large Coops (grocery stores)- but when I am actually in the city I am pressed to find one. I guess I could always just stop in a Coop. I hope that is what other people do because take out (take away) and to-go coffee is really popular here too. I have yet to see a reusable mug that is European coffee sized (the cup below is filled halfway). I could probably fit 5 coffees purchased here in my American to-go cup; however, I would probably spend 20 chf and overdose on caffeine if I tried that.
Another large waste I have noticed is in the Coops. If you want to buy veggies, you have to do it by weighing it yourself (below). Then, it prints a sticker with the price. You need at least 1 sticker for each vegetable type and most people use plastic bags for each too. They have let me get away with weighing four tomatoes- for instance- all straight on the scale then just sticking the sticker on one of them when I check out to reduce my plastic bag usage. I have not been able to find where/if these bags are recycled, but the stickers surely cannot be.
However, despite this waste, I cannot forget how many people here that I see carrying reusable shopping bags or how many people here that I know must save their parcels of paper to be recycled, make stacks of a particular height, tie them in a particular way, and put them out on a particular day once a week. This is a site to see (below), and I find it hard to imagine it ever happening in the states.