A family standing in front of a disposal point, where a girl is throwing in plastic waste.


11 things you should stop throwing away

You can recycle old credit cards, empty nail varnish bottles, spent e-cigarettes and much more. How it works.

Nina Huber
Getty Images

1. Bank, credit and health insurance cards

Cut up the expired card and throw it in the bin – that’s what we learned. But the chips contain small amounts of valuable metals, including gold. To enable the recovery of these precious metals and the plastic part of the card, you should return expired credit cards and other chip cards to the issuer, for example Migros Bank, or dispose of them in at collection points for electronic waste.

2. Nail varnish

Once you’ve used all your nail varnish, you can dispose of the bottle, including the brush and lid, in the glass collection bin; however, if the bottle still contains a lot of varnish (half full or more), it should be disposed of as hazardous waste. You can find more information at Hazardous waste collection – Swiss Recycle.

3. Empty mustard and mayonnaise tubes

You can dispose of spent tubes that contained mustard, mayonnaise, gravy or tomato purée – preferably without the plastic lid – at an aluminium collection point. This keeps the aluminium in the cycle.

4. Envelopes with windows

Were you also told as a child that envelopes with windows should have the transparent part neatly removed before going into the recycling? That’s old news. Waste paper is shredded into tiny fibres, with foreign matter such as plastic being filtered out, and the glue that affixes the window to the paper is no problem for the waste paper mill in small quantities.

5. E-cigarettes

Every store that sells vapes must also take them back. That’s because e-cigarettes are considered electrical devices – on account of the rechargeable battery and the electrically heated vaporiser. In addition, there are around 750 free-to-use collection points for electronic devices in Switzerland run by the Sens Foundation, which accept used e-cigarettes.

6. Tennis balls

The amateur sportsmen and women among us who play tennis go through quite a few balls in the course of a season. After a few weeks, the old balls are no longer usable, even for the amateurs. Fortunately, Mr. Green has a collection point for used tennis balls. The recycled rubber is used to make underlays for sports courts, for example.

7. Paper clips

A single paper clip is not so important, but if you are in the process of getting rid of old files, then take worn-out paper clips and staples to the metal collection point.

8. Polystyrene

This synthetic foam is certainly nice and light, but so bulky! It fills up a bin bag in no time at all. But you could dispose of it at municipal depots or private collection points, where it can be reused.

9. Corks

These natural wine stoppers are obtained from the bark of cork trees. Thanks to its insulating and water-repellent properties, cork can be used in a variety of ways, even once the bottle has been drunk – as flooring, for shoe soles or even for furniture such as chairs, for example. Various municipal collection points and restaurants take back wine corks. You can find details of collection points in your area at You can also send the corks by post to the Silea Foundation or to Fachhaus in Schwerzenbach ZH.

10. Worn-out clothes

Clothes collection points generally only accept clean, intact items of clothing so that they can resell them as low-cost clothes or donate them; however, there are exceptions such as Texaid, which even accepts trousers with holes in them and faded T-shirts. They cut cleaning rags from cotton items, while other items are mechanically shredded for reuse as insulation material.

11. Chewing gum

Unfortunately, they are not (yet) available in Switzerland, but if you pass pink, spherical containers when travelling through Denmark, the UK, France or Luxembourg, you can put your old chewing gum in them. The company Gumdrop solves this littering problem by using the gum to make new products such as rubber boots and, surprisingly, drinking cups.

Collection points at a glance

You can find the respective collection points in your area on the recycling map. Simply enter your postcode and click on the desired material.

Take part and save waste!

Do you know what can go in the bin? With our tips and tricks, recycling not only becomes easy, you also save a lot of waste.

All Stories