Throwing rubbish away is an expensive business in environmentally-conscious Switzerland, and a highly complicated one.
Local authorities across the country all have their own way of charging residents for getting rid of waste, with the options ranging from microchipped bins that charge by kilogram of rubbish produced to tax stickers that must be placed on rubbish bags, or the purchase of expensive, council-approved garbage sacks.
One of the side effects of these different systems is what the Swiss sometimes call ‘rubbish tourism’, or the practice of dumping household waste elsewhere to avoid the high costs associated with garbage disposal. And it seems France is now also an increasingly attractive destination for Swiss rubbish tourists.
Customs authorities in the Franche-Comté region of France, which borders Switzerland, say a growing number of Swiss people are driving over the border to dump their garbage for free.
In an annual review of operations for last year, they noted that, alongside the drug seizures and the suitcases full of money, they intercepted 140 Swiss nationals planning to dump rubbish over the border in France.
French authorities cited the example of one resident of Basel who left his rubbish by the side of the road in the commune of Delle, but who was tracked down because he left papers containing his name and address in one of the garbage bags.
The French estimate they intercepted close to ten tonnes of rubbish coming in from Switzerland but say the total figure could be much higher. Culprits are fined €150 (175 francs).
“Of course, we tell them to go back to Switzerland with their rubbish. But there are people who protest and say the fine gives them the right to leave their rubbish in France,” one customs official told French daily Le Parisien.