Sunday 04 December 2022

‘Messy’ rubbish policy needs to be sorted out: Amsterdammers

Composite image of rubbish on Amsterdam streets Photo: DutchNews

Critics have called Amsterdam’s plans to clean up the city in a ‘rubbish offensive’ messy and unclear at a council debate.

The situation has hit a crunch point with the return of record tourism, extra cardboard waste from home deliveries during the pandemic and new rules meaning large rubbish lorries are banned from narrow streets, to reduce exhaust emissions.

In the meantime, however, some Amsterdammers have dubbed their filthy roads a ‘rubbish belt’ and others have suggested that repairing trust in government should start with repairing the waste system.

Deputy mayor Zita Pels, in charge of rubbish collection, announced in October that €2 million extra would be invested to sort out the mess.

Pels told councillors that 870,000 residents produce an average of a kilo of rubbish each per day – although it is unclear if this includes commercial waste and building waste dumped in city bins. ‘Given the size, and the resources we have, it’s not realistic to get the city 100% clean, but it needs to be cleaner than it is now,’ she said in the briefing.

The city wants to make rubbish collection vehicles emissions-free by 2030 and encourage people to ‘adopt’ underground bins and clean around them. It is also cracking down on public littering and starting a campaign to encourage paper recycling.

Pels said to become more of a ‘circular economy’, the city is going ‘to talk to’ businesses about more recyclable packaging and alternatives to cardboard, while investigating businesses dumping in household waste. More ‘rubbish concierges’ will be appointed from a  €500,000 budget and there will be concrete plans by 2023 for bulky waste, increasing recycling points and collections in busy places.

Mess

But Christian Democrat (CDA) spokesman Rogier Havelaar said that the local government’s ideas were currently too vague and ‘messy’, and that businesses should take more responsibility.

‘This might be deposits on pizza boxes, cleaners paid for by hospitality businesses in a going-out area to fulfill the 25-metre cleanliness rule, and an agreement with fast food restaurants banning packaging food that will only be taken out of the restaurant then immediately dumped,’ he told a council meeting.

He suggested obligatory €1 rubbish bags for people picnicking in parks, better planned collection – using reports from citizens – and proper co-ordination of multiple projects. ‘I’ve been looking at Amsterdam waste policy for about seven years now, and for seven years I’ve heard nothing other than that it is a mess,’ he said.

Behaviour

Hala Naoum Néhmé, former councillor for the VVD in Amsterdam, has called in the Parool for the city to update services that seem to be ‘from the Middle Ages’. ‘Many citizens of Amsterdam recognise the image or the problem and the solutions I tried to describe,’ she told Dutch News. ‘This is a monster issue. It’s a chain, and you try to solve it by pressing as many buttons as you can.’

In her view, high sickness rates in the rubbish cleaning industry should be investigated, the technical scheduling of rubbish and positioning of bins, as well as people’s behaviour.

‘One very gentle reaction [to my articles] was from a former Amsterdam citizen who lives in Nice, who said a good example they should look to is France and a city like Nice,’ she told Dutch News. ‘We are also a consumption society. We should think about the environment and buy less, but I think to change people’s behaviour, you need much more time.’

Dumping

Separately, the Uithoorn municipality has refused to tell Dutch News how much it spent on legal costs in a failed attempt to impose a €120 fine on a woman for allegedly dumping cardboard 2.5 km away from her home, while she was on holiday in Maastricht.

A court in Amsterdam found the woman was correct to refuse to pay. However, the municipality will not appeal.

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