The 7 best cities for cleaning trash by kayak

7 min readDec 9, 2020
Kayaking in the Soca River, Slovenia

The original plan I had was to list the “10 best places in Europe to go kayaking”. I noticed halfway through my research that websites featuring posts about places in Slovenia, Norway, France, and Sicily showed very teasing, perfect looking landscapes that had captions such as “crystal clear water” or “stunning natural sights”. Although I would love to go kayaking at these beautiful locations myself, I realized that some of them might be a little hard to get to unless you’re actually planning on an all kayak holiday. If you’re not a complete kayak expert (like myself) however, it may feel slightly overwhelming to include entire kayak tours in the vacation planning. Many external factors could jeopardize such an activity: weather, rough waters, or “I’m just not in the mood for sports”, just to name a few. Some sights are also quite remote and hard to reach — in other words: not ideal for a weekend trip.

What’s interesting to me is that so far I have hardly seen any travel articles promoting European metropoles or other places that are in need of a good clean up (because duh, let’s be real here: who saves their hard-earned money to then just spend it on visiting or even cleaning up a littered holiday destination). But let me ask you this: have you ever been in a situation where you had a day off, took out your phone, and googled “Things to do in…” wishing that the author included more actual activities instead of just mentioning “the city’s finest cat cafe”?

If yes, keep on reading! If no, keep on reading!

So, without any further ado, I bring you the 7 best cities to enjoy by kayak:

City #7 : Naples, Italy

Naples ranks as the 6th most polluted city in Europe

“La Dolca Vita” or more like “La Trashy Vita”?

These facts might be interesting before you plan your next trip to Italy’s third-largest city:

Small disclaimer: No Italian trash talk intended! Lots of trash is dumped by tourists into the Mediterranean Sea and washes up on Italian shores. So to say that Naple’s trash crisis is completely its own fault is kind of wrong.

We know that Italy is not famous for its trash but for its pizza, wine, art, fashion, vespas, the list goes on and on. So even though it’s important to stay critical, it’s also important to experience what Italy truly has to offer. Once you’re done enjoying la dolce vita, maybe you’re up for a kayak ride?

Check out Kayaknapoli!

And don’t forget to collect some trash near the beach and along your way!

City #6: Brussels, Belgium

“Canal it up” is an initiative that helps keeping Brussels canal clean

According to Numbeo’s Pollution Index, Brussels stays within the top 10 dirtiest capital cities in Europe.

Were you surprised? As already mentioned in my previous blog entry, Brussels green initiative “Canal it up” provides kayaks for free to volunteers who, in turn, bring back the trash they fish out of the water. This is the perfect Sunday activity if you want to take a break from Belgium’s famous waffles, beer, chocolate and fries. You can easily get in touch with volunteers who are, just like you, spending their free time to contribute to a cleaner city. So give it a go when you visit Belgium anytime soon!

City #5: Budapest, Hungary

Budapest ranks 38th on the Pollution Index

Every district in Budapest has a couple of days in the year when local councils collect all large pieces of rubbish that cannot be disposed of throughout the rest of the year. This occasion is called “lomtalanítás” — very roughly translated to “get-rid-of-junk day” — and provides free bulk-garbage disposal for some and a livelihood for others. Read more here.

After you are done observing the city’s system of clutter removal and wealth redistribution, would you like to stroll along the Danube? Or even better, paddle in the Danube?

There are some nice kayak rental services that offer tours in Budapest;

Unfortunately these kayaks don’t come with trash bags or boxes, so you might need to stuff the trash between your legs.

City #4: Lyon, France

Plastic bottles on the streets after “Run in Lyon” with 25.000 participants

Although Paris definitely ranks higher on the list of most polluted cities in Europe, Lyon ranks as the third-dirtiest city in France. The reason why I listed Lyon here is simply because it is located at the place where the rivers Rhône and Saône meet.

Two rivers, one city! More water, more kayaking opportunities!

Lyon is definitely a hotspot for kayak enthusiasts, so here are the top 3 clubs:

City #3: Dublin, Ireland

Volunteers of GreenKayak are cleaning up the Liffey

Kayaking has undeniably become more popular in Ireland over the last years. And justifiably so! If you want to read the 10 best locations in Ireland to discover by kayak, click here.

Why is Dublin still a dirty ol’ town?

There are loads of bins in the city center and they are usually filled to the brim, which results in a ton of trash flowing onto the streets. Footpaths are stained with grime, chewing gum, and of course the usual cigarette butts and rubbish. Scientists at Dublin City University say that the River Liffey in Dublin is a major carrier of pollutants into seawater.

Time to be a real chancer, go clean up Liffey! After your clean up session, get yourself a pint of the black stuff!

Here are the top 4 kayak rental places in and around Dublin:

City #2: Copenhagen

Swans nest in Copenhagen’s trash

People are so accustomed to the big city life and not really attuned to the natural world that even the occasional sight of an animal triggers such responses as: “Look, a weasel!” or “Aww, a baby swan!”. But when these reactions clash with the sad realities of a trashed up street or canal, it triggers something in us.

“This is just wrong”, “Poor animals”,“They shouldn’t be living in a nest full of trash”

Copenhagen is arguably the cleanest capital city in Europe. Thirty years of focused energy policy has made Denmark a world leader in renewable energy technology, including wind turbines and energy efficient waste management. Copenhagen is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world — with priority bicycle green waves and bicycle-friendly traffic regulation.

However, although it may be the cleanest European capital out there, the city could still improve the way in which it collects its trash. The picture of the trash nest above counts as a proof.

This is also one of the reasons GreenKayak started their mission to clean up Copenhagen’s canals. If you ever want to go kayaking and clean up Copenhagen, check them out!

City #1: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the city in the Netherlands, if not the world, where coffee shops have a permanent place in the street scene

One out of four tourists visits Amsterdam because of the low-threshold availability of (soft) drugs. Bubble Barrier Amsterdam, a young start-up that has rightfully received a lot of positive attention in the last two years, introduced their plastic waste prevention technology: tubes that shoot up a big bubble stream create a barrier preventing platics and waste from floating downriver. They regularly find plastic joint tubes and weed bags in their trash catches.

*High on plastic*

Luckily, there are some really good initiatives that fish these plastic chuncks out of the canals, and we hope that Kajakkollektief will soon be one of them too.

… Will you join us?




Discover Amsterdam with us by kayak while helping us build a cleaner and more sustainable city!