• Rajashree Das

The Top 5 cleanest cities in the world and their unique waste management practices



1) Zurich and the Zuri Sacks (Switzerland)

Waste management in Switzerland is based on the principle, 'polluter pays the fine'. Dumping refuse and household garbage illegally or inappropriately incurs a heavy fine.


Although Switzerland is among the largest waste producers in Europe, its recycling rate is at 54%, much higher than the average European countries.


Since 1985, the Zürich Waste Department mandated the use of 'Zuri-sacks' for waste disposal. Following the concept of 'pay as you throw', 'Zuri-sacks' has played a key role in the decreased waste production as citizens were fined if they used any other bags for disposal.

The sacks are available for purchase from grocery stores but due to the cost of these bags, citizens are wary of throwing more garbage. This practice had successfully reduced per-capita waste within the first few years of the inception of the mandate and continues to do so.




2) Vienna and the Spittelau Incinerator (Austria)

Vienna is known to be one of the cleanest and greenest cities on the planet. Austria's government plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2040. As of now, 30% of Vienna's energy demands are fulfiled from renewable resources.


Have you ever thought that a waste incinerator can also be a tourist attraction? Sounds crazy, right?

Exhibiting a unique golden ball, Spittelau Incinerator of Vienna is a beautiful and bizarre mix of technology and splendid architecture which has been one of the city's eye-catching landmarks.

Spittelau Incinerator incinerates more than 2,70,000 tonnes of municipal waste every year and provides heating to more than 15,000 homes in the city. Viennese home heating systems solely run on trash incineration and surprisingly these incinerators produce 90 per cent less than the emissions limit.

What an innovative use of trash!


3) Singapore and the landfill island of Semakau (Singapore)

Singapore developed from a low-income to a high-income country in less than half a century. One of the major success achieved by Singapore is in the area of waste management.

Their waste management mainly works on the principle of waste to energy and have installed several incineration plants which are then sent to Singapore's only landfill, Semakau Island.

Covering an area of 3.5 square kilometres, Semakau Island holds the trash generated by the country's 5.6 million people. Semakau Island looks nothing like a landfill, is stench free and home to rare species of birds such as Great-billed Herons. The island houses several coral reefs and mangroves as well.


4) Helsinki and the Underground waste management system (Finland)

Helsinki in Finland is one of the cleanest cities in the world. It is characterised as a 'low-rise city' and is known to effectively use underground resources for transport, parking, sports, waste management and other infrastructure facilities.


The city has one of the world's most advanced and automated underground waste management system using series of pneumatic tubes which collects waste from different parts of the city to a central processing facility. Helsinki currently has more than 800 such collection points transporting more than 20 tons of waste daily.


5) The Mottainai way of waste management in places such as Kobe and Kamikatsu in Japan

Japan uses the word 'Mottainai' to describe the feeling of regret when something is wasted without utilizing its full potential. Methods such as reusing, recycling and recovering materials are taken very seriously in Japan. Japan is slowly moving towards the path to zero waste.

The best part is how the responsible Japanese citizens play a crucial role and ensure proper segregation before waste collection.


Kamikatsu, a small remote town is another example successfully following Japan's waste management model and currently recycling more than 90 per cent of waste.


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