“Take-out” refuse clogs waste bins Coronavirus crisis exacerbates waste problem in Bonn's city center

Bonn · Bonnorange is sending out more personnel to empty garbage bins and clean pedestrian zones. But the City Marketing Association is still not happy with the situation. This is why larger garbage bins are not a solution.

 City cleaning crews from Bonnorange empty waste bins five times a day in Bonn city center.  Still, they are often overflowing.

City cleaning crews from Bonnorange empty waste bins five times a day in Bonn city center. Still, they are often overflowing.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

Overflowing trash bins and scattered litter have always been a problem in the pedestrian zones and on the banks of the Rhine - especially after sunny weekends and Saturdays of shopping in the city center. But the coronavirus pandemic has made the situation even worse. City clean-up crews are addressing the problem.

"Our efforts have increased significantly during the pandemic," reports Bonnorange spokesperson Jérôme Lefèvre. Despite restaurants being closed for weeks and the number of people walking through the city center having gone down, considerably more drinks and food are being bought in disposable cups and packaging, and most of it ends up in public trash cans. "On the late shift, we have been doing another round of emptying garbage bins since November 17. It supports the manual cleaning crew in the city center of Bonn and also covers other hot spots in the city area," says Lefèvre. In the city center, the 100 or so waste receptacles are now emptied five times a day instead of four. The first signs of success are visible. "If the situation deteriorates again, we will take measures to ensure a clean cityscape under the current difficult conditions.”

Pedestrian zone is cleaned twice a day

According to Bonnorange, the pedestrian zone is cleaned twice daily, once in an early shift and then again during a late shift. Since January 2020, this has also been done on Sunday afternoons - previously there was only one cleaning shift on Sundays. Four people per shift are deployed to empty the garbage bins.

Despite the additional efforts, city guide Norbert Volpert from "Stattreisen" (“City Tours”) does not see any progress in keeping the city clean, as he has observed when he is out giving tours. "If you are out with tourists at the Alter Zoll, in the Hofgarten or in the pedestrian zone, it can sometimes be really embarrassing," says the Bonn expert, who has already publicly addressed the garbage problem in the past. "That was the case before corona and it hasn't improved.” It is particularly bad from Saturday to Sunday, since many retailers and businesses already put their garbage cans out in front of their buildings on Saturday evenings. They get filled up by the many people passing through until they are overflowing.

“Take-out" trash is a growing problem

Karina Kröber from the City Marketing Association has also observed that increasing “take-out" orders are negatively impacting cleanliness in the city center. The association has already received complaints about this. "We are not happy with the situation," states Kröber, who lives at Friedensplatz. "I think that the Bonnorange crews are working properly. Perhaps there is a lack of personnel." Of course, more cleaning hours or more waste bins cost more money - but the optician thinks that these costs should not be borne by the property owners alone through street cleaning fees. After all, a clean city center is important for the community.

Larger wastebaskets are not a solution according to Bonnorange. "The Tara model, which is mainly used in the city center, already has an increased volume of 100 liters," explains Lefèvre. "Larger bins would be too heavy for our employees to empty.” Bonnorange also considers the number of waste containers to be sufficient: with around 4,000 in the city area, there is one waste bin per 83 inhabitants, which is "a very good amount" by city standards. In the pedestrian zone of Bad Godesberg there are about 40 waste paper baskets, on the Rhine promenades on each side of the Rhine there are 25. On the Bonn side of the river, Bonnorange has already increased the cleaning interval in summer to once a day. On average the city cleaners empty 2,000 waste bins daily.

Overflowing trash cans can be reported

Overflowing trash cans can be reported to the city online via the city's complaint notification system. In October of 2019, Bonnorange started putting stickers on waste bins. Printed on them are the address where the person is reporting the defect and a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone. Pressure is still on to address the problem. "For some years now, the use of public spaces has been increasing rapidly," says Bonnorange spokesperson Lefèvre. What the city cleaning crews have observed: "more garbage and broken glass left carelessly lying around, repeated acts of vandalism and the burning of or kicking over waste bins.”

Orig. text: Andreas Baumann

Translation: ck

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