Barcelona is dirtier than before. At least in some points. Complaints due to lack of cleanliness are often somewhat subjective and can vary depending on each street, but for months neighborhood groups and the opposition in full have been denouncing an increase in waste on public roads that have pushed the City Council first to recognize it and then launch a 70 million shock plan this week to tackle the problem.
Nobody assumes responsibility for the incidents in the bottles of Barcelona
Cleanliness – or the lack of it – in the city has marked the political debate in the last councils and plenary sessions of the City Council and has become a recurring cause of shock on social networks, with councilors and neighborhood associations publishing images of overflowing containers and sidewalks full of debris. In addition, the conflict has had elements of a perfect storm, since it has been added to the crisis of macro-bottles, specific complaints of rat infestations and a door-to-door waste collection implementation in the Sant Andreu neighborhood that has generated tensions .
In this context, the perception of the public regarding cleanliness has worsened and has rebounded as one of the main problems that are collected in the biannual survey of the City Council.
But Ada Colau is not willing to be enchanted by the conflict. The consistory announced this Monday an extraordinary plan of 70 million euros (30 of them were already planned) to reinforce the actions in 350 especially critical points of the city, but not only at the level of street cleaning, but also the removal of graffiti and gum, maintenance of pavement and urban furniture or removal of herbs. Also a much more intensive use of flushing with water underneath, which in turn helps to eliminate bad odors.
This additional item – which was not clear from where it will be obtained – should serve to improve cleaning especially until the new contract is launched, in March 2022. Until now, this was the horizon in which the municipal government deposited much of their hopes, since it means ending a contract with FCC for more than ten years and starting a new one that includes, among other things, 400 more personnel. But the complaints of the political groups led the government of the Comuns and the PSC to increase their short-term commitments, among which the creation of a City Maintenance Coordination Committee also stands out.
More complaints about dirt
Part of the commitments announced in the shock plan, which should be implemented from this month of October, came up during the last municipal plenary session, held last Wednesday. Based on a proposal by Junts to increase cleaning and waste collection, which was negotiated with the government and approved unanimously, all municipal opposition groups reproached the mayor for it. “The city is dirtier than ever,” Junts spokeswoman Elsa Artadi said. “It is dirty and left, more than I remember in a long time,” continued ERC mayor Jordi Coronas. Parties like Ciudadanos and PP even spoke of “degradation” and “decadence.”
In the face of the attacks, the City Council defended itself in the first place by going to the causes. The Councilor for Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition, Eloi Badia, denied that it is due to a reduction in cleaning staff and blamed it on the heat and lack of rains – which tend to contribute to the sanitation of the streets – and especially the increased use of public space at some points after the pandemic. Likewise, he wanted to refute some perceptions and in the case of pests he argued that the Barcelona Public Health Agency (ASPB) has registered 1,000 fewer interventions than the previous year, 2020.
“We are with the same service that we had, but we must recognize that it is not enough,” Badia intoned during the plenary session. “This summer we have done a huge task with the summer reinforcement,” he added about the incorporation of some 200 more troops, “but the truth is that it is not being enough and we do not want to be complacent.” “We have to prepare for new realities and new situations because the citizens ask us to do so,” he added, in line with what the mayor or the deputy mayor for Urban Planning, Janet Sanz, had already admitted weeks before.
Beyond the political level, complaints about dirt and the presence of waste in the street have been common among merchant associations and in some neighborhood entities more than in others. Eduard Català, from the Associació de Veïns Racó de les Corts, assures that the accumulation of waste and herbs in some streets has not occurred for a long time. In his opinion, he attributes 50% to what he considers an increase in “incivism” and another 50% to “deficiencies” in cleaning.
In your case, for example, it ensures that the flushing with water is not done thoroughly enough for the volume of waste that there is, especially under containers or cars. “I am not saying that they do not pass the same as before, but what they do is not enough,” insists this resident of Les Corts.
Pending the new hire
In the controversy over cleaning, the council has not tired of defending that the new contract is going to mean a before and after. “It is one of the most important novelties of the mandate,” proclaimed Sanz, who recalled that the cleaning party in Barcelona takes almost 10% of the city’s global budget, 287 million of the little more than 3,000 that the municipal accounts have .
The new contract was resolved in February 2021 and was awarded to four companies: Sorigué, Valoriza, Urbaser and FCC. It is the case that the latter is also currently the winner and that it was even sanctioned for fraud with 7.1 million euros.
However, the City Council argues that the new service will allow the direct hiring of 225 more employees (up to 4,400) and that it will serve to have new machinery and technology, for example electrified trucks that do not make so much noise. A website will also be set up that will allow you to see street-by-street cleaning actions.
Perhaps one of the great stumbling blocks in the matter of waste will be the expansion of the door-to-door collection system, which is also contemplated in the contract. The goal at the metropolitan level is for this model to reach 100% of household waste management by 2025, but its launch in Sant Andreu has aroused some complaints and has even divided neighborhood entities.