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In general, waste should undergo material recycling or thermal treatment. If this is not possible for technical reasons, or it is not economically viable, the waste is deposited in a landfill following suitable treatment.
The standard waste disposal methods used in Switzerland are defined and described below:
Recycling refers to both the direct reuse of used products (e.g. used clothing and functioning parts removed from used vehicles) and material recycling, that is the recovery of raw materials from waste (e.g. production of new glass from fragments, the melting of scrap iron and the production of recycled building materials from construction waste). Downcycling refers to the transformation of waste to materials of lower quality than the initially used material.
Combustible waste from households and waste wood that is not suitable for recycling undergo thermal treatment in waste incineration plants or waste wood furnaces. The heat released in the process is used to generate electricity and heat buildings. Waste with a high calorific value and low level of pollutant contamination can be used in industrial plants, e.g. cement plants, as an alternative to fossil fuels. Waste that is contaminated with organic pollutants undergoes separate thermal treatment (e.g. in hazardous waste incineration plants). Incinerators must have a flue gas treatment system. The requirements for flue gas treatment and the incineration system are based on the nature of the waste.
Specialised waste disposal companies treat the waste in accordance with the requirements of the incineration plant. This guarantees that the fuel will be of a high quality and reduces the accident risk. The companies ensure, for example, that no undesirable reactions occur when liquids are mixed. Waste materials that are used as substitute fuels in cement plants must be crushed in advance and set at a constant calorific value.
The objective of both chemical-physical and biological treatment is to enable the removal of pollutants from waste or its safe landfilling. Wastewater and polluted excavated material are typical of the types of waste that are managed in this way. Following chemical-physical treatment, the pollutants can be disposed of in concentrated form in facilities suitable for this purpose.
Residues from waste incineration or waste that is not suitable for material recycling or thermal treatment are deposited in landfills that are compliant with the legal requirements. If the waste does not fulfil the requirements for landfilling, it must be pre-treated.
The waste management sector involves many different specialised actors. Their tasks include the collection of waste at source (industry, commerce and households) in suitable transport containers, its intermediate storage and handover to waste disposal operations. The treatment of waste is often based on a cascade of specialised plants. In all cases, smooth logistics are a precondition for the efficient management of waste. In the case of hazardous waste, in accordance with the Ordinance on Movements of Waste, the handover must be documented.
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