The last of the evening sun, plus a cold beer and a pizza – in times of pandemic there are probably few more suitable places for this than the easily accessible lawn in the park around the corner. If there wasn’t a problem: the garbage cans are full, there is no space for empty pizza boxes.
Since time and the pandemic situation have allowed it to some extent again, Berlin’s parks are filling up. It is no different in the Weinbergspark in Mitte, especially in the evenings and on weekends there is a lot to do here. Young people get together to celebrate, families or friends get together for a picnic – and everyone leaves their waste behind.
Berliner Stadtreinigung (BSR) wants to counter this problem with extra large containers. Park users can now also dispose of large waste such as pizza boxes there.
The new containers are part of a pilot project: in Berlin, the districts are actually responsible for cleaning their parks. In 2016, the BSR then took care of the cleaning of twelve parks to lighten the districts.
Today, five years later, BSR is responsible for nearly 80 parks and green spaces in Berlin, including Görlitzer Park, Lietzenseepark and Treptower Park.
The pilot project is now a standing order to BSR and Senator for Economic Affairs Ramona Pop (Verdi): “The cleanup of the BSR park is a true success story.” The cleanliness of the city draws an equally positive balance. “By ensuring cleanliness as a BSR, we contribute to the quality of life in the city,” says Stephanie Ott, head of BSR.
[Alles gut? Nein, es gibt Ärger um die neuen Mini-Mülleimer der BSR an Berlins Badeseen: Schwimmer und Nachbarn sind sauer, die BSR reagierte prompt. Hier Fotos und alle Infos zuerst im Spandau-Newsletter]
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At the forefront is Thomas Jarske, the city cleaner. Since the beginning of 2020 he has been cleaning the Weinbergspark almost every day. Before the pandemic, Jarske says, tourists were more of a problem because Weinbergspark is surrounded by several hostels. “Some of the guests celebrated until nine in the morning,” says Jarske. “Of course, he fell far behind.”
Take-away packaging increases the waste problem
Tourists have stayed away in recent months, but that hasn’t changed the waste problem. Closed restaurants and indoor social distancing have pushed people to parks, even to eat. The BSR reports that the amount of waste has increased, especially in the vicinity of restaurants offering take-away dishes.
The vineyard park is surrounded on all sides by gastronomy. In June alone, cleaning staff collected an average of 3.3 cubic meters of waste from garbage cans and surfaces every day. This corresponds to nearly three and a half large containers, such as those found in apartment buildings. “This is a setback for us,” says Stephanie Otto. “We have fought against take-away packaging for years.” You shouldn’t lose sight of it now. One solution, for example, could be a deposit system: Restaurants could charge a small deposit that their guests would return as soon as they returned their pizza box to the restaurant.
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Until this happens, BSR’s cleaning staff will continue to be in demand. They are now active in parks in all twelve districts. “We agreed with the neighborhoods which parks are the most popular and need them the most,” says Otto. 280 of their employees are currently making sure the parks remain clean. Overall, the BSR is responsible for only around three percent of Berlin’s green spaces. According to Senator Pop, the current double budget has around 14 million euros available for cleaning the park. If the next budget includes more park cleaning funds, the BSR can clean more parks. However, Stephanie Otto considers the acquisition of all the parks “utopian”. Not all green areas are so dirty that the BSR has to relocate specifically for it. “It is neither convenient nor necessary.”
Parks are perceived as cleaner
There are also no fixed contingents of cleaning staff in the previous parks. Instead, the BSR cleans “their” parks as needed: for example, if the sun is shining, more Berliners visit their parks and leave more trash there. The BSR then sends more cleaners to clean the parks for new visitors. The cleanup of the city seems to go on with them: according to polls by the BSR, just under half of the respondents believed that Berlin’s parks were clean or very clean before the start of the pilot project. According to the BSR, during the pilot project at the end of 2019 it was already 86%.
Clean parks contribute to the quality of life in the city, says Otto, head of BSR. “Carelessly thrown garbage is a problem that starts with everyone.” Berliners are actually quite aware of waste, says the Pop Economy Senator. Most of them throw their trash or at least put it next to the garbage cans when they are full, reports Jarske, a cleaner in the city. The real problem is the waste that is unconsciously thrown away or simply neglected: bottle caps or cigarette butts, for example, the so-called small waste. This is precisely what is particularly dangerous. Because a single cigarette butt pollutes up to 60 liters of water table.
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As long as you carry the bottle caps, Senator Pop has no problem having a beer in the park with friends in the evening. “But after a certain time or a certain level of alcohol, a lot of things happen carelessly. Parks aren’t the right places to party all night, but outdoor club areas are reopening. “
The BSR sends permanent teams to clean up their parks. Also to ask passersby about their waste, says Otto, the head of the BSR, “and to reinforce the feeling of a common park”. The BSR has also set up a large yellow crown hat in the Weinbergspark. It should warn park visitors: inside to take their little soil with them. If you don’t read the printed informational text, you might even see the crown cap as an inviting place for the next beer after work.