Written by: Ralph Schneider

Collecting garbage on the Rhine - a positive step towards waste prevention


Father Rhine is not only a business engine, but also part of our lives and leisure time. It is a transport artery. It is a habitat for fish, mussels and crayfish. It is a provider for drinking und cooling water. Now it needs to be cleaned up.

Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed being near the water in the evenings, with friends, at sunset, making campfires and barbecues. The river is my home.

In the 1980s was a different story. Turn the clock back 40 years and the river was a large sewer and biologically almost dead. A serious chemical spill upstream was real low point in 1986: dead fish everywhere and it stank to high heaven. But it was also the turning point. With the resolution of the Rhine Action Program, all riparian states spoke out in favor of better protection of the Rhine. The aim: making environmental protection, life and business together possible.

It has been a long but successful journey. Today, t development of the Rhine is a great example of sustainable change, which is possible when everyone across borders understands the problem and tackles it.

The Rhine is cleaner today, but not quiet perfect. Waste in large and small forms, made of plastic, too, lies along its banks and on its river bed.

On August 8, as part of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste’s Clean4Change campaign, I was joined by colleagues, their relatives and friends at a Rhein Clean Up in Dormagen Zons. About 50 people packed into one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the area in bright sunshine. It was one of several clean ups that my colleagues set up in many countries over the past few months.

Our “result: In just over three hours, we recovered about two tons of waste from the sand, including 63 tires and 1.5 tons of scrap metal, much of it many years old.

Collecting trash locally and talking to people sounds trivial, but it is a concrete first step in the process of understanding and implementing targeted prevention actions with local stakeholders. Additionally, if kept local and pragmatic, clean ups are resource and cost efficient. A clean beach does not prevent the risk of future re-littering, but lowers the amount of waste in the environment.

The recent history of the river is also proof that a community of states, organizations and people can work together to improve such large body of water – while local industry and cities thrive. It takes passion, patience, and perseverance.

The Rhine has motivated us all to tackle more clean ups. In view of the negotiations on the Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution, we will continue to work in partnerships with organizations like the Alliance to End Plastics Waste to analyze the challenges of non-packaging waste more closely and develop effective solution building blocks.

A big “thank you” to all my colleagues and the external partners who are participating in and organizing the many clean ups around the world this year.

Comments (0)
Thank you for your message. It will be posted after approval.