The employees proudly present the last refrigerator
Review of RUAG Environment

Review of RUAG Environment

The long history of the recycling pioneer RUAG Environment came to an end in 2023: after over 30 years of demanufacturing refrigerators and recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment, the site was closed and returned to Armasuisse.

But how did it all start?

The Swiss army and thus the arms market changed fundamentally with the ‘Armee XXI’ reform project in 2003. The reduction in defence spending put around 1,500 jobs at risk, particularly in the canton of Uri, so RUAG called for the creation of new, value-adding jobs in the civilian sector in its new corporate strategy.

Early on, in 1992, what was then the Eidgenössische Munitionsfabrik Altdorf (MFA) set up a recycling operation for disused electronics as an independent business unit. The decision to move into recycling did not come as a surprise, as RUAG already had many years of experience in disposing of ammunition components in an environmentally friendly way.

A leading position in waste disposal

When the advance recycling contribution (ARC) was introduced through the SENS and SWICO take-back systems, and when the Swiss Ordinance on the Return, Taking Back and Disposal of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ORDEE) entered into force in 1998, RUAG was able to develop positively with the market and, until recently, offered job security to around 100 employees.

The rapid volume growth soon called for mechanisation of work processes, so a recycling plant for small electrical appliances was put into operation in 2002, followed by a new refrigerator recycling plant in 2005. This set new standards in industrial waste disposal. However, commissioning was delayed by several months, as the site was affected by catastrophic flooding and the area became submerged in metres of water and mud. The site was rebuilt thanks to the outstanding commitment of the employees and the local Uri government.

After 18 years, the cooling unit system is being dismantled

The Federal Council decides on RUAG’s future

The review of the military strategy also affected the recycling division of the Schattdorf site. After several management initiatives to detach the recycling division, the Federal Council decided in March 2019 to privatise the company divisions that were not in operation for the army and to look for partners for the future. RUAG sold its RUAG Environment AG business unit to the Thommen Group in 2020. This sale and the associated synergy effects meant that operations in Schattdorf could be continued for the time being, and the site was renamed Immark AG Schattdorf.

Heartfelt thanks to all employees

It was communicated during the takeover that activities could only be continued until the end of 2023, given the great need for investment in the latest technologies. This was the only way to ensure a sustainable Swiss solution in the field of electronics recycling.

 At the end of October, the auditors from SENS and Swico and representatives of the Canton of Uri successfully approved the end of operations from a waste law perspective and the site was closed as planned. We would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all the long-standing employees, who showed us the true meaning of good teamwork and company loyalty. Virtually without exception, the employees found a professional next step in the canton of Uri.

Throughout the entire period of operation, over 3.1 million refrigerators, around 2 million large household appliances and 300,000 tonnes of small electronic appliances were recycled in an environmentally friendly manner, thereby recovering valuable resources.

About Immark:

With sites in Regensdorf, Aarwangen and Liestal, Immark is the Swiss market leader in the disposal and recycling of waste electrical, electronic and refrigeration equipment. It is part of the Thommen Group, the leading recycling group in Switzerland, which also operates internationally through its holdings and subsidiaries.

Auditors Heinz Böni and Niklaus Renner with Urs Gerig at the final inspection