Saturday 25 March 2023

Toilet advocates plead for more public facilities during corona


It’s the issue that rarely comes up in polite conversation: in the 1.5m society, there are very few places to go.

Now a ‘toilet alliance’ of concerned groups in the Netherlands is campaigning for more public loos to be made available while café and restaurant facilities are strictly rationed.

‘Other countries are much better organised and have many more public toilets, but in the Netherlands there are only 500 – of which 200 are only for men,’ said Ivo Thonon, spokesman for the Toilet Alliance.

‘That’s less than the whole of Paris, so there’s a big problem here. For all these years we’ve relied on the pubs and restaurants but they can’t accept passersby any more…or if they do, by the time you have answered all the questions about your health, you have peed your pants!’

The group – started by cycling bodies and the Maag Lever Darm Stichting for people with digestive issues – has written to all local councils in the Netherlands and is lobbying all MPs to urgently install more toileting facilities before the summer.

Thonon adds that bicycle tour operators are being flooded with questions from customers and tourists worried about getting caught short. ‘Half of the population of the Netherlands is 50 or older, and then you are not going to go on your knees in a ditch any more,’ he said. ‘One in five people also have bowel and bladder problems. For tourists too, it is a pressing question.’

Foresters have also reported increasing amounts of human litter and toilet paper in the bushes in parks and woods where public facilities are closed, according to the NOS.

ECO Toilet, which has 7,500 portable units and is one of the Netherlands’ largest providers of temporary WCs, said that demand has increased – but so far, mostly from campsites which are now providing individual sanitary facilities for each pitch in order to reopen safely.

Carlijn Dekker, a spokeswoman for the company, told that local councils are less keen. ‘The policy of many local councils is that they don’t want to stimulate people to make mass use of public space, so they are not putting extra facilities in places like parks.’

The exception, however, appears to be Alkmaar, which was voted the Netherland’s ‘most toilet friendly‘ large district in 2019. Since the area’s business and marketing associations warned that corona regulations compromised the availability of public facilities, it has placed mobile ‘toilet wagons’ in two areas, which respect the 1.5m distance rule, are regularly cleaned and are free of charge to ‘spend a penny’.

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