My late arrival forced me to put my bike against the wall of the empty building around the corner. I grab my keys and almost trip over a half full can red bull. The rice table for one, left by someone who thought was more hungry then he obviously was, I compulsively ignore. Red Light District trash is what I name it.
It is a Sunday. That means the local cleaning trucks won’t be coming before 10.00. The rest of the street looks like they haven’t been here for a week. It is going to be a hot day, so that pile of garbage bags will create a stench that will even cost the ladies customers.
What does Amsterdam do about the trash?
I clean the front steps, carry all the stinky garbage bags to a different corner and even though it is Sunday, I can reach the number I have for the self employed or entrepreneurs in Amsterdam. The lady on the other side of the phone explains to me that ‘it is a difficult problem that Amsterdam is been trying to solve for years now’. She also wishes tourists would think more about the environment they visit.
‘Sometimes tourists don’t realize people also live in the Red Light District. More than clean it often and educate tourists we cannot do.’ When I ask if educating tourists doesn’t seem like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble, she laughs. ‘Yes that is exactly the problem. They don’t care because they leave soon anyway.’
“The seagulls, rats and mice aren’t helping either”, she continues. But leaving trash around attracts them, so in the first place people should change their behavior.
She agrees. Is there anybody else apart from the local Amsterdam government taking responsibility? “There are some local initiatives, also for restaurants and cafe’s like yourself” she replies. I heard about something called the Biking Bin so I decide to check that out.
There are some initiatives by Amsterdammers themselves. Because much of the trash comes from the bars and restaurants. The Biking Bin, from Zero Waste Lab for instance.
A bike with enough space to collect garbage from tourists, cycles around De Wallen 3 half days a week. And for the locals they have created an area on the Waterlooplein 31 where trash can be traded for a discount coin at local shops.
In the meantime, tourists and locals; please use the thousands of garbage cans alongside the streets. They are there for a reason.