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  • Nina Reis

Broodje Aap: If These Trashcans Could Talk

Imagination meets the physical structures of Amsterdam - stories of things and non-things in the city. They are true if you want them to be true.

Have you ever wondered about the boom of candy retails? There is no exact time when it happened, but it did happen. Not overnight—but slowly. There seemed to be more and more candy stores in busy shopping streets. They were here now, and they seem to just thrive. Best example: Leidsestraat. Full of tourists and locals, wandering out amongst the canals, going shopping, and maybe even on the way to Bloemenmarkt. Along the street, they fill up on snacks and sweets; only to discard the colorful wrappers at the end of their journey, at either end, Kalverstraat in the East or Leidseplein in the West.

The question is: Where does all the candy come from, and where does it go? Why is it in Leidsestraat? Before the candy came, nobody really remembers what was there before. The trash cans wonder what their interior looked like, back when it wasn’t lit up by empty, neon-orange Cheeto bags. A lot of facemasks - while they were not in any danger to be infected, nor sick, not existing in a human body with lungs, they could tell something was going on. Even if the word pandemic is not something trash cans seem to be confronted by. Some of the candy shops in Leidsestraat were commercial Covid Testcenters - and before that? The buildings and sidewalks, all the cobblestones and store fronts, are used to constant change. They live in Amsterdam, are built into the fabric of a capital city in Western Europe under late stage capitalism. Change is inevitable - what colors fill up the inside of the trash cans alongside Leidsestraat is different every year, if not every month. Trends in retails come and go, and so does the trash. But the main things remain the same: that people throw stuff away.

If these trash cans were in any other city, they would know that the boom of candy shops seems to be happening in a lot of other places too. But they aren’t, because they can’t be. They are trash cans, nailed into the ground. All they can witness is the waste change, and candy wrappers fill themselves up. So these new stores in Leidsestraat, with their colors, big fonts, and sweet energy, are a phenomenon they are still getting used to. The trash cans are debating amongst themselves how long this trend will last. They have seen it all come and go, after all. One of them, the one next to the Abercrombie & Fitch store, seems to have been affected a bit by the company’s casual fatphobia, judging the waste thrown away, and by whom. “People used to be healthier, throwing away plastic wrapping and paper bags, and face masks. Now all I see is Snicker wrapping and Oreo crumbs and empty chip bags!”, it complains. “Oh, will you shut up? I like all the colors now. And what is wrong with a bit of sugar in life”, the one on the other side of the street cries out in response. It’s been listening to the other one complain for a few months now, ever since the street started filling up again. Under its breath, it mutters: “It’s not as if you know all of their medical information based on one simple pink candy wrapper.” Another one, the one near the newest candy store, silently follows the conversations. It doesn’t care to get involved, preferring rather to listen to the others. Just as it has been observing its own trash, and wondering what will come next. Not even a year ago, the now colorful storefront near it used to be a Covid testcenter. Now it’s filled to the brim with sugary sweets and all kinds of snacks. The trash can wonders: Is the thing when people were wearing masks and using handsanitizer over? When will the candy be gone? And what will fill up the trash cans in Leidsestraat next?

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