Coming clean: TGI Fridays

A couple of times a week I park my bike in the bicycle shed on the Westplein in Utrecht. A not so cozy square because of the many traffic but it is made more fun and greener with unrelenting enthusiasm by the people of  Paviljoen Pop.

An impression of the mess.

Last week I once again parked my bike and saw a tsunami of junk. It turned out to be an action of the fast food chain TGI-Fridays who wanted to recruit staff in this fun way for their soon to be opened restaurant on nearby Stationsplein.

Apparently there is little enthusiasm to work here and regular ways of recruiting staff (an advertisement or employment agency) do not yield anything. Or perhaps there is a completely different reason that is overlooked.

Probably, there has been a department that has devised to tackle it in this way. Perhaps it was preceded by brainstorming session, with yellow post-its and out of the box thinking.

TGI Fridays
Do you believe this is a winning action?

Anyway, the outcome was  that there is a label on all bicycles on the Westplein with this phrase : Do you believe in a dream job at first sight?

If they had thought about it a little bit longer, they might have come to the conclusion that about 100% of the bike owners do not need this label. And that there are only a few people who put it in their pocket to throw away at home. Practice shows that most people just throw it on the ground, especially if there are already a few hundred.

I tweeted a friendly request to TGI Fridays to clean up their mess. But no reaction. The day after, I returned from work a bit earlier and decided to pick up as many labels as possible.


There were 267. This time I have also tweeted about it, now with the question to TGI-Fridays to come with us to clean up some time in return. I also asked the municipality of Utrecht, per tweet, whether companies are allowed to distribute so much junk. It is still not entirely clear to me how it is, but apparently it was passed on to the licensing department.

Until now there is no reaction from TGI Fridays but you are the second person to hear when in their infinite wisdom they decide to come with us . I can recommend it anyway because it is super fun with us!

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TGI Fridays has turned out to be a good sport: they reached out to DeGroteSchoonmaak the day after the second tweet and sincerely apoligized. Also, they have committed to have 2 employees help us cleanup for an afternoon. We are very happy about that and plan to do this very soon!

Mission 4: Trash beachcombing in Katwijk

The name of this blog suggests that Mission 4 is identical to Mission 1. There were indeed several similarities::

  • Location: Katwijk
  • Day: De dag: the day of the lord
  • Weather: fresh and sunny
  • Nature of the mission: trash beachcombing

But there were also important differences. First of all, it was more than a month later. As a result, we were able to conduct a comparative research. We walked about the same area and saw significantly less waste than last time!

This can have various causes:

  • A battalion of trash beachcombers had been ahead of us that morning
  • Or there has been (relatively) little waste fallen from human hands in the intervening period. And what is the cause of that? Maybe because on a clean beach there is less dumping ….

This time our party of beachcombers was different. We were accompanied by our super-enthusiastic ex-neighbor with her three equally enthusiastic children aged 6 and 8 and 8. They had been looking forward to collecting the waste all morning and they did not hide that! With a fanaticism that could put Olympic athletes toshame, the beach was combed from bottom to top and from left to right. Their enthusiasm almost ended into an argument about a piece of plastic at some point: “NO, THIS WAS MY WASTE, I WANT TO PUT IT IN THE BAG!”

A tiny little incident in an otherwise perfect afternoon: the images speak almost for themselves, and otherwise there is always the caption.


3 superheroes, 2 of them incognito


Summary of a splendid afternoon!


At first is said afal! (in Dutch something like trazh!) but fortunately this spelling error was remediated on time (now it says something like trasj).

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Coming clean: looking for tips!

img_0209Since my birthday there have been three official missions but between these we have not been idle. We (read: Hella) have spent hours in getting an understanding of the WordPress world. With good results, because we now have all kinds of fancy features on this site including an English version! Google translate has been able to translate all blogs with Hella’s expert help so now we can have our global breakthrough. Furthermore, a Twitter account has become available recently: @plasticcleanup (the twitter account @degroteschoomaak was already given to a certain Mister Muscle). Even on LinkedIn we have some traffic going on with our blog.

As we become more and more immersed in the plastic waste issue, we noticed that we are not alone. There are already many people who clean up litter, even in our own environment. And I really believe that it works as an environmentally-friendly oil spill: more and more people are joining various cleaning up projects.

Once you have an eye for it, you can’t not see it anymore. Double denials are always difficult, but even I understand this one. Since we started collecting, I see plastic and other waste everywhere. Sometimes it leaves me with a practical challenge. For instance, if I go shopping and I see all sorts of junk lying on the street, I prefer not to dirty my hands. And if I start picking up trash, then it usually does not stop with 1 piece. And not even with 2, so the following problem arises: where do you keep it? Preferably not in the shopping bag. So far the solution was: look for a plastic bag, because where there is waste, you usually also find plastic bags. However, I am very curious how other litterpickers  solve this.
I saw Peter Smith (Stichting Klean), while riding his bike, smoothly grab waste with his waste grabber and elegantly throwing it into his bicycle basket. If you can pick up even cigarette butts so easily and with so much precision, you probably got a lot of watches out of the claw machine. As of yet, this is still far out of reach for us. Therefore we are welcoming tips to deal with this challenge!

Saturday 18 Feruary we will go trash beachcombing again! With a burlap sack.

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Schone zaken: tips gezocht!

img_0209Sinds mijn verjaardag zijn er drie officiële missies geweest maar ondertussen hebben we natuurlijk niet stilgezeten. We (lees: Hella) heeft zich urenlang bekwaamd in het doorgronden van de WordPresswereld. Met resultaat, want we hebben nu allerlei fancy features op deze site waaronder een heuse Engelse versie! Google translate heeft met de deskundige hulp van Hella alle blogs kunnen vertalen zodat we nu ook global kunnen doorbreken. Verder is er sinds kort een Twitter-account: @plasticcleanup (het account degroteschoonmaak was al weggegeven aan de huishoudservice van Miep Kraak). En ook op LinkedIn is er al een hoop reuring.

Nu we ons meer en meer verdiepen in het plastic afval, valt ons op dat we niet alleen zijn. Er zijn, ook in onze eigen omgeving, al veel mensen die zwerfafval ruimen. En ik geloof echt dat het als een milieuvriendelijke olievlek werkt: er sluiten zich steeds meer mensen aan bij allerlei schoonmaakprojecten.

Als je er eenmaal oog voor hebt, kan je het niet meer niet zien. Dubbele ontkenningen zijn altijd lastig maar deze begrijp ik zelfs. Sinds we zijn begonnen met rapen zie ik overal plastic en ander afval. Dat geeft soms ook een praktisch probleem. Want als ik net boodschappen ga doen en ik zie allerhande troep op straat liggen, wil ik liever geen vieze handen. En als ik dan toch begin met rapen, dan blijft het meestal niet bij 1 stuk. En ook niet bij 2, dus dan dient zich het volgende probleem aan: waar laat je het? Bij voorkeur niet in de boodschappentas. Tot nu toe was de oplossing: op zoek gaan naar een plastic zak, want waar afval is, vind je meestal ook wel plastic zakken. Maar ik ben heel benieuwd hoe andere zwerfafvalrapers dit oplossen. Ik zag dat Peter Smith van de Stichting Klean jaloersmakend soepeltjes met zijn grijper het afval in zijn fietsmandje gooit. Iemand die met zo veel precisie en gemak zelfs peuken oppikt, heeft vroeger waarschijnlijk een hoop horloges uit de grijpmachine gehaald. Maar voor ons is deze manier voorlopig nog buiten bereik. We houden ons dus aanbevolen voor goeie tips!

Zaterdag 18 februari gaan we weer grondstofjutten op het strand! Met een juten tas.

Mission 3: La Grande Pulizia

De muur van Lucca

De muur van LuccaMid January was the time for our third mission. Not just any mission: The Big Cleanup went on a working visit to Italy to check out the situation there and of course to clean up! We visited, among other things, the picturesque town of Lucca. For the handful of people who, like me, have never been in Tuscany: it is beautiful and you can also enjoy delicious food and drinks. Only now do Hella and I understand that everyone loves going on vacation there.

One of the attractions in Lucca is the old city wall, a 4-kilometer-long wall, where the locals can certainly have plenty recreation on Sundays. A perfect place for our mission. We started a bit hesitant with a piece of paper here and there, but when we found a big plastic bag in which we could put everything, we really went all out! We walked around the four kilometers in a warm sun shining down. Of course we have no idea what the Italians thought of those two middle aged signora’s with a dirty plastic bag. But the reactions we received were positive in any case: a jogger running past gave us ‘complimenti’, an old lady who understood that we were not Italian, smiled at us kindly and said ‘Thank you’. There was even an older gentleman who walked up with us for a while and also started collecting. Awesome!

And our harvest? We filled the bag with immeasurably many wraps, presumably left behind by traders who have their stalls on the city wall in the summer months. What was also very striking: the inhabitants of Lucca all suffer a cold. We stumbled on the used paper tissues, which after 10 pieces were followed by the plastic packaging. We cleaned them all up but unfortunately the next day, during a short inspection round, it turned out to be a chronic cold.

Collage LuccaTired but very satisfied we then went for lunch in a good restaurant on the wall, San Colombano. Normally I immediately sit down, but this time I just washed my hands before eating …

The reward of the day came when after lunch we fell in a tub of butter. On a field near the church all the pets of Lucca were gathered to be consecrated there: the annual … Benedizione degli Animali. The pope on duty walked around and insisted to give us a hand (or a handshake), honest to god! I could not understand what he said to me, but I suspect he wanted to thank us for La Grande Pulizia.


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Mission 2: Maak de Maredijk Mooi!

Within a week of our first mission it was time for the second activity: ‘Make the Maredijk Mooi!’ (= Clean up our neighbourhood Maredijk).

Hella had received a free package from the sympathetic foundation ‘Nederland Schoon‘ with gloves, plastic bags, posters and thank you cards. Hella had also created an event on the website of ‘Nederland Schoon’. This apparently was also communicated in our neighbourhood via Facebook’s unfathomable ways. As a result, in addition to a number of birthday guests, other people from the neighbourhood participated.


02 IMG_0115 beste
After the walk-in with coffee and cookies, sympathetically everyone posed for the photographer.

Just like the week before on the beach, at first glance it did not look so bad. But once we were busy cleaning, we realised we were not really living in a very clean neighbourhood … In one and a half hour time a lot of litter was picked up. A selection: hundreds of cigarette butts, fireworks, a boot, cans, plastic bags, beer bottles and so on.

Maak Maredijk Mooi
The showpiece of the day.

We also learned something: some of us thought that these glass things in the picture below are beautiful vases for orchids. That is not true. It is packaging material for a so-called shot. No heroin, but an alcoholic drink.


The effort we made was huge. And during our effort we were approached several times by neighborhood residents who would definitely want to participate next time. In fact, that nice family on the corner of the street could not wait and joined right away!

34 Maredijk (10)
Plenty to be found in the ditch!
When everything was cleaned up, we wiped the curbs with a wet cloth.
36 Slot en juich foto1
Unbelieveably happy residents of the Maredijk neighbourhood with their harvest!

Afterwards we had a nice lunch because all that cleaning up gave us the munchies. Once again, this mission showed us that enjoying yourselves and doing something uesful can go hand in hand perfectly!

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Missie 3: La Grande Pulizia

De muur van LuccaAfgelopen weekend was het alweer tijd voor de derde missie. En niet zo maar een: De Grote Schoonmaak ging op werkbezoek naar Italië om daar poolshoogte te nemen en natuurlijk om schoon te maken! We bezochten o.a. het pittoreske plaatsje Lucca. Voor het handjevol mensen dat net als ik nog nimmer in Toscane was: het is daar schitterend en je kunt er ook nog eens heerlijk eten en drinken. Pas nu begrijpen Hella en ik dat iedereen er op vakantie gaat.

Een van de attracties in Lucca is de oude stadsmuur, een 4 kilometer lange muur waar zeker op zondag volop gerecreëerd wordt door de locals. Een perfecte plek voor onze missie dus. We begonnen nog een beetje aarzelend met hier en daar een papiertje maar toen we een grote plastic zak vonden waar we alles in konden stoppen, gingen we echt helemaal los! We liepen in een lekker zonnetje de vier kilometer al bukkend en rapend. Natuurlijk hebben we geen idee van wat de Italianen dachten van die twee middelbare signora’s met een vieze plastic zak. Maar de reacties die we kregen waren in elk geval positief: een voorbij rennende jogger gaf ons ‘complimenti’, een oude keurige dame die had begrepen dat we geen Italianen zijn, lachte vriendelijk en zei ‘Thank you’ en er was zelfs een meneer die een poosje met ons opliep en ook ging rapen. Keileuk!

En de oogst? We hebben de zak vooral gevuld met onmetelijk veel tiewraps, vermoedelijk achtergelaten door handelaren die in de zomermaanden hun stalletje op de stadsmuur hebben. Wat ook heel opvallend was: de inwoners van Lucca zijn allemaal verkouden. We struikelden over de gebruikte papieren zakdoekjes, die telkens na 10 stuks gevolgd werden door de plastic verpakking. We hebben ze allemaal opgeruimd maar helaas bleek de volgende dag bij een korte inspectieronde dat het een chronische verkoudheid betreft.

Collage LuccaMoe en bijzonder voldaan gingen we daarna lunchen in een goed restaurant op de muur, San Colombano. Normaal schuif ik gelijk aan maar deze keer toch maar even de handen gewassen voor het eten …

De bonus van de dag kwam toen we na de lunch met onze neus in de boter vielen. Op een veldje bij de kerk waren alle huisdieren van Lucca verzameld om daar ingezegend te worden: de jaarlijkse Benedizione degli Animali. De dienstdoende paus liep er rond en stond erop om ons een hand te geven, echt waar! Ik kon niet verstaan wat hij tegen me zei, maar ik vermoed dat hij ons wilde bedanken voor La Grande Pulizia.