Amsterdam is piloting electric waste collection boats to cut the number of rubbish trucks in the congested city centre and limit the damage from heavy vehicles to weakened bridges and canal walls.

The six-month trial will run in parts of the Red Light District (Wallen) and the Nieuwmarkt area.

Residents in these neighbourhoods will put their household waste bags out on the street as normal on Mondays and Thursdays. The boats, operated by municipal water company Waternet, will be moored in the canals on collection days and waste collectors will throw the bags directly into the boats to be transported to the waste processing plant via the canals.

In the surrounding streets, small trucks will collect the waste and take it to one of the boats.

Smart waste

Amsterdam’s waste system also includes street-level containers with underground capacity, which are collected by the municipality on a regular basis. Some of the city’s bins are ‘smart’, sending automatic alerts when they are full.

A statement from the city said: “In parts of the city centre it is not possible to install underground waste containers due to a lack of space on the street. In addition, there are cables underground and the canal walls are too weak to take the weight of heavy waste collection trucks on the streets along the canals. We are looking for alternatives and will be conducting various experiments over the coming year. This pilot with waste collection boats is one of them.”

E-cargo bikes

During the pilot, the city will be asking local residents about the results and their experiences.

“After six months, we will decide whether we can continue to collect residual household waste by boat in the Wallen and Nieuwmarkt area, and whether the trial can be expanded to other areas,” the city said.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) project is developing autonomous boats which could potentially be used in future to deliver goods, collect waste and even transport passengers in waterway-rich cities such as Amsterdam. A spokesperson for the City of Amsterdam told Cities Today that autonomous boats are not a priority for waste collection at the moment.

Amsterdam is also exploring a pilot to collect waste with electric cargo bikes in some areas of the city centre, the spokesperson said.

Image: City of Amsterdam

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