Chemicals often have properties that pose a threat to human health and the environment. Hence they present particular technical and organisational requirements in terms of their collection, transport and disposal.
Paint, cleaning agents, fertilisers, plant protection products, acids and bases are some categories of chemicals that are frequently used in private, commercial and industrial contexts. In addition to being useful, many substances also have hazardous properties. Hence, the manufacture, trade and use of chemicals are subject to various legislative. The product label or safety data sheet provides information about hazards and codes of conduct for the use and disposal of the substances with their very different properties.
The spectrum of chemicals ranges from hazardous chemical-physical (e.g. explosive or flammable) substances to substances that pose a risk to health (e.g. caustic or toxic) and environmentally hazardous substances (e.g. ecotoxic or water-polluting). In accordance with the Chemical Risk Reduction Ordinance (ORRChem), substances that pose a particular threat to the environment may no longer be placed on the market (e.g. asbestos, PCBs). Nevertheless, many of these substances can still be found in plants, buildings and stores. In accordance with the Chemicals Ordinance (ChemO), other hazardous substances, e.g. toxic, caustic or explosive ones, may only be acquired by commercial users who have undertaken the necessary measures for the protection of human life and the environment.
Most chemical waste is classified as hazardous waste and can only be submitted to authorised waste disposal companies. Products that must be disposed of as hazardous waste after use are usually labelled with a hazard symbol. In accordance with ORRChem, an explicit "bring-back obligation" exists for biocidal products and plant protection products.
Households can return chemicals to specialist retailers, collection points or on special collection days organised by communes or cantons. Precise details about these days may be found in the commune's waste calendar or obtained from the cantonal waste offices. Typical hazardous waste from households includes: paint, varnish, acids, bases, bleach, descalers, solvents, thinners, mercury thermometers, aerosol cans, plant protection products etc.
Companies submit waste comprising of used chemicals to waste disposal companies with the relevant authorisation. In accordance with the Ordinance on Movements of Waste, the company that generates the waste must document the handover of hazardous waste on a movement document.
Licensed disposal operations in accordance with OMW:
The disposal process used depends on the nature of the waste. Large volumes of waste of uniform composition can be recycled in part: metals can be recovered from electroplating baths, solvents, acids and bases can be regenerated. Other processes aim to remove hazardous substances, e.g. to enable the recycling of metal packaging (aerosol cans, paint pots etc.). Problematic organic substances can only be rendered non-hazardous through processing in suitable thermal treatment plants.
In the case of hazardous substances and preparations, in accordance with the Chemicals Act, retailers must take back small volumes of such waste from private individuals free of charge. Disposal at collection points and communal or cantonal collections is also usually free of charge.
The disposal of used chemicals from industrial operations is financed in accordance with the polluter-pays principle.
Last modification 05.07.2019