A cleaner city with robots?

The city of Amsterdam, and especially the city centre, is heavily used by its citizens and visiting tourists. These users of the public space produce a lot of trash. This causes that the city is not as clean as prescribed by the city’s policies and the wishes of its citizens, despite the efforts of the Schoon department of the municipality which is tasked with keeping the city clean.

Amsterdam is not as clean as she should be. Or rather, not as clean as her 
inhabitants and visitors would like her to be. And that while the municipality invests 
a lot of effort in keeping the city as clean as possible, with over 12.000 trashcans 
and well over 500 city cleaners at work every single day.  

In collaboration with the municipality of Amsterdam (department ‘Clean’) and the 
Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS), we are exploring how robots 
might support these urban cleaning processes.   

Not an easy task, as the city is a highly dynamic environment – while robots 
typically are more suitable for constrained situations. Everybody who has ever seen 
a robot vacuum at work knows they need the occasional nudge to function, and that
is in as controlled an environment as a living room.   

In this project we investigate and design the collaboration between city cleaners 
and robots, so that they can together get Amsterdam as clean as possible. The 
question will explicitly be not just about what robots can do, but also about how 
they can do this in a way that supports the city cleaners and maintains their job 
satisfaction. Our efforts will result in an understanding of the requirements that are 
relevant for the city and her cleaners, and a roadmap of where robots might be able
to contribute.

Thijs Turel

AMS Institute


Enzo Steehouwer

Master student

Claire Schuurman

Master student

Graduation projects – In progress