It's big and it stinks.

While taking a Sunday-afternoon wander round the picturesque streets of Amsterdam the other week, I was overwhelmed by the site of huge piles of rubbish heaped on every corner. The cobbled streets looked horrendous with overflowing bins and rubbish blowing around, looking like the aftermath of some giant and debauched party. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t what happens in Amsterdam.

There was clearly some kind of counsel strike going on….Each day a fresh layer of black and blue bags piled up; resembling some kind of gruesome flower display. As it went on, I started to feel a bit offended by the sight and smell, and a bit sorry for the visiting tourists confronted by the mounds of ugly rubbish. Not what you really want to see on your holiday.

…you can call me stupid, but after a week and a half it suddenly dawned one me that the bin men weren’t the problem, we were. We’re the ones who produce all this rubbish, they just take it away and put it somewhere we can’t see it. The problem is society is obsessed with buying and consuming, but very little thought goes to where it all goes when we’re done. We make ourselves feel better with token gestures, putting our used papers in the recycling bin, our green bottles in the green bottles bin, using recycled paper… you get the idea.

So I woke up one morning with the thought in my head that maybe the rubbish strike was a great opportunity to make a point and get people thinking about what happens to our rubbish, so that they might spend a bit less time producing it.

I jumped out of bed (not a usual occurrence) and ran to the window hoping that the bin men hadn’t decided to “unstrike themselves” and went and did a little scouting to make sure the rest of the city was still covered in rubbish. It was.

Headed to work and had myself a 8:30 brainstorm with the team. Then a couple of hours later, props and camera in hand we found ourselves wandering through the red light district of the city looking for the most photogenic rubbish piles.

View the video here (YouTube Video)
Even being caught red handed in the middle of the red-light district stuffing a pair of purple tights with bubble wrap by the police didn’t stop us. Uttering the stock phrase, “student project” which sent them happily on their way, smiling and waving at us to carry on.

We set up our little stunt and stood back to see what happened. We got a lot of attention, with people stopping and asking questions and taking photos. We even got onto the Amsterdam news site. Did it make people think any more about the rubbish they produce, I’d like to hope so.

By Michelle Henley, Creative Director at Amsterdam marketing agency, gyro