Three bags full

I never saw many farm animals up close when I was young. We lived in suburbia, where you got your milk in bladders (it’s a Canadian thing) and wool only ever came in sweaters. Living for years in France and now in Switzerland, some of our closest neighbours are furred or feathered.

Our French bulldog, Humphrey, the one with the wonky ticker, is mildly obsessed by sheep. All farm animals really, but especially the ones closer to his own size. Humphrey stares fixedly at the sheep and goats we pass on our walks. How ridiculous he looks; I feel rather embarrassed for him. Even the cows just look back at him placidly as they chew their cud. Electric fencing means that their relationship will never get beyond a curious stare. Although on one occasion he was surprised when the massive pink tongue of a curious cow came and licked him over the fence.

Now the farm animals have all gone inside for the winter but in most seasons they graze happily outdoors. I wonder if they have shorter legs on one side to keep their balance on the steep slopes?

We had a bit of snow this week which made the dog walks a little tough on the Frenchies’ tootsies. Our boys are getting older and are less excited about going out in the cold and wet. The upside is that when they do their business, which I always pick up faithfully here in the land of civic duty, it is easier to grab in the snow. And even warms my hands! Like most modern dog walkers, I have perfected my technique for picking up dog-do: slipping the bag over my hand like a glove then grabbing the item and turning the bag inside out. Before knotting it, that is; here in Switzerland there is a protocol for everything and one must knot the bag, n’est-ce pas?

Thankfully the bags are thoughtfully provided by the Gemeinde (town council) at poop bins strategically located where people walk their dogs. So I have no excuse, really, and can even be seen after dark with my walking light scrabbling around on the ground to pick up after my pets.

Garbage bags are another story. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere but here in German-speaking Switzerland, you have to buy special pre-taxed bags. Any other kind will simply not be picked up.

“Müllsacks, bitte,” I venture to the woman behind the counter where they sell pricey, taxed items like garbage bags and cigarettes. Thankfully she understands me, even though I think it’s not the correct word. That might in fact be ‘Gebührenkehrichtsack’ (charged garbage bag) but I am far from able as yet to spit that one out.

I am, however, proud to be able to specify the size of bag: “Fünf und dreissig.” The 35-litre bags are the most popular format so perhaps she saw it coming. I fork out 20 francs to pay for my roll of ten red bags. At 2 CHF a pop, it’s a good thing they’re sturdy because you need to amortize each one by filling it to the max. Most weeks we manage three bags full.

It seems the philosophy of making the polluter pay for the costs of waste disposal is deeply ingrained in the Swiss psyche. I suppose it’s an incentive to create less waste and recycle more. Which is all very well and good unless you have a sensitive nose. Those bags start to stink after a few days.

But who wants to be a black sheep?


Feature photo by Jared van der Molen on Unsplash


  1. pedmar10 · December 11, 2020

    Lucky us we get regular garbage bads very cheap in supermarket and the tri or ecolo plastic cans etc bags are given free by the city. Best of luck with the cows…I have plenty around me lol!

    • MELewis · December 12, 2020

      Thanks, Pedmar! Yes, I remember those bags well — although our former town in France never provided anything for recycling. I think cows are wonderful neighbours, except when the farmer sprays the field with their manure!

      • pedmar10 · December 12, 2020

        nice perfume French made lol!! different regions different rules vive la différence!!

  2. francetaste · December 11, 2020

    What photos!
    The pay-for-the-municipal-bag thing happens in Belgium, too. In order not to pay this, a particularly repulsive in-law thus either dumps her trash (she doesn’t recycle) from her car on the side of a rural road or she puts it into the litter bins in the town center. Completely shameless. She also is on medical disability for “depression”–for three years! She is NOT depressed; pre-Covid she just partied too late on weeknights to be able to get to work in the morning. Her doctor has known her since childhood and lets her get by. So she’s shameless in many ways. She she would never, ever stoop so low as to pick up after her dog.
    Dog poop is one of the worst aspects of living in France (which means that life isn’t too bad if that’s among the worst but at the same time–sheesh, people! WHY????). Someone has let their dog deposit an immense mountain right in front of my building’s door, more than once, and sometimes the pile is right in front of the door of the lovely dress shop next door (who is struggling since the Gilets Jaunes segued into Covid). Same color and amount every time, so I suspect the same large animal. And on the jogging trail–can’t they make their dogs go to the side? Why leave it right in the middle of the path? Why leave it at all?

    • MELewis · December 12, 2020

      Ah, les incivilités! One thing I do not miss about France. So gross when the owner of the animal doesn’t even mind where they dump their loads. Pre-pickup laws, we always used to make our dogs do their business in the ‘canivaux’ (rather aptly named, come to think of it). Your Belgian out-law sounds like a real treat. I can understand why you’d want to put distance between yourselves and her!

  3. Susanne · December 11, 2020

    I’m grateful for the snow, too, so I can find the poo easier than on a bed of decomposing brown leaves. The idea of taxing the bags is intriguing and I support it, as I support taxing the hell out of producers who now pack their fruit or delicate veg in plastic containers. For crying out loud, you’d think farmers would have more respect for the land. Where the hell does all that plastic go? As long as they don’t see it, I guess its okay with them. Yeesh. Sorry for the digression. Round these parts, I’ve seen full poop bags strung up in trees along the path. What’s that about? Anyway, kudos to you for amortizing the poop bags and for doing your civic duty.

    • MELewis · December 12, 2020

      The snow does make it easier (nothing worse than trying to pick up a loose poop in long grass!) but then there is the yellow snow which is less appealing. 😒 No idea why anyone would string it up though. Agree on the plastic fruit and veg containers, which are all the worse for not being recyclable. Here in Switzerland, there are many laws to reduce pollution — from a tax on car parking even in supermarkets to super recycling centres — while the stores still revel in displaying plastic by the ton. Go figure!

  4. Garfield Hug · December 12, 2020

    So lovely to see the sights of your land. I love your bulldog. Hope you are all settled in and ready for Christmas. Take care and Garfield hugs MeLewis!

    • MELewis · December 12, 2020

      Thanks, Garfield! We are getting there, fingers crossed we all stay healthy til then. Hope all is well with you in Lil Red Dot. 💋

      • Garfield Hug · December 12, 2020

        🤗🤗🤗Lil Red Dot is doing good in the fight against Covid so far🍀

  5. margaret21 · December 12, 2020

    You’re a good Swis citizen already! As to dog turds and the French – yes, owners were fairly shameless, we found, but we were almost equally irritated by the vast quantity of mégots that we routinely found outside our door. Quite mysterious really, as we never caught anybody in the act.

    • MELewis · December 14, 2020

      Yes, those cigarette butts all over the ground are just awful. Somehow this is not seen as a problem by the French while the dog droppings are at least universally reviled (even though many refuse to pick them up!).

  6. acflory · December 13, 2020

    Are those special bags meant to go inside a rubbish bin? Don’t they do recycling? Or are the bags only for stuff that can’t be recycled?

    • MELewis · December 14, 2020

      Yes they are what Brits call ‘bin liners’ so only for the non-recyclable garbage. Better not put recyclables in them — the Swiss are known to go through and identify the miscreants through bills in the bags. 😏

      • acflory · December 14, 2020

        lmao! Serious recycling!

  7. Kiki · December 15, 2020

    Made me laugh, but when we returned to our native Switzerland after all those years, we sighed too at the cost of those bin bags. Mind you, it teaches you pretty quickly how to put everything folded up or shredded to the tiniest possible size in order to put as much as humanly possible in the bags. If you have a possibility, buy also small compost bags (Migros has 2 sizes) and what I do generally, and also did in France is, putting everything from teabag to smelly veggies or whatever in used ‘old’ plastic bags, kept next to the sink, then, filled, knot them up and put the ‘sealed’ bag in the bin bag. Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s so much more hygienic and you won’t have the fruit flies etc.
    We pay 1.65 per 35l bag, so we’re cheaper in that respect. But we pay a lot more taxes than you do and I’d gladly pay more for my bags, if…. Doggie doo is really frowned upon and I have to say: Bravo to our councils who provide sufficient ‘dog stations’ with bags and bins. The cows and other 4 legged animals do get very ill if they eat what the dogs leave lying about. We also visit very frequently our rubbish collecting point where we dispose of newspapers, PET, bottles and glass. This week will be an expensive trip as we will have to dispose of a rather big and terribly heavy shoe storage from wood. Didn’t think of that problem when we bought it against a very good bottle of French Red – but now can pick up our new shoe storage in red metal….

    • MELewis · December 16, 2020

      Good tip on keeping the green garbage separate, thanks! We have two recycling centres relatively close but you really have to be into separating and sorting when you hit the bins. I am much more comfortable when my husband is there to interpret for me. As for getting rid of the large items like your shoe storage, it was a surprise to me to learn that you had to pay for the privilege. I wonder if that explains the success of so many second-hand ‘Brockenhaus’ and also website like (which I haven’t tried yet but intend to!).

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