Littering problem – They collect cigarette butts – for fun – News


In Zurich, volunteers sweep up trash. In this way, you help the city cleaners in the fight against littering.

“There are leftover food, pieces of paper and beer cans in there,” says Lukas Tschopp. He looks into the filled garbage bags. “Here’s a pen, a pack of cookies, a clothes hanger,” he continues. Tschopp and his four helpers collected all of these objects. Even an Epiphany crown glitters in the trash on this February morning.


Lukas Tschopp’s group is well received by the population: someone even gave them a bottle of wine as a gift once.

SRF / Christoph Brunner

Lukas Tschopp is one of the volunteers who regularly collects waste in Zurich. This concept is called space sponsorship. Private individuals, associations or companies can contact the city for a specific area. And free it from cigarette butts or chewing gum as “Götti” or “Gotti”.

A concept known throughout Switzerland

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In addition to Zurich, there are also space sponsorships in 60 other Swiss communities. These include, for example, Olten, Basel, Arosa and Aarau. This is shown by an overview from the Swiss Competence Center against Littering. Almost 640 sponsors are active in the fight against waste.

The city cleaning service with its 250 employees cleans public spaces every day. The employees sweep up around 9,000 tons of waste every year – almost the weight of the Eiffel Tower.

Nevertheless, litter still remains, especially on gravel paths such as the Platzspitz near Zurich main station. “Collecting every cigarette butt there would be relatively time-consuming for us,” says Niels Michel from Waste and Recycling Zurich. It was therefore a stroke of luck for the city that a company voluntarily took on this work.

TV series as inspiration

The city of Zurich provides the volunteers with garbage bags. “We also received a “Schüfeli” and “Wüscherli”,” says Lukas Tschopp. “These miracle weapons are much better than pliers.”

A portrait of Lukas Tschopp


The cleaning operation by Lukas Tschopp and his group was originally only supposed to last until the end of February. Now they are considering a longer-term space sponsorship.

SRF / Christoph Brunner

Lukas Tschopp works professionally as church president of a Roman Catholic parish. Every Saturday morning he now collects rubbish around the church and far into the Wipkingen district. His wife Rebecca Grzesik also helps out and remembers her childhood. “I grew up in London,” she says. At the time, there was a cartoon series in Great Britain in which small animals collected waste. “And I always thought that was really great!”

Zurich is looking for more volunteers

Years later, Rebecca Grzesik met Lukas Tschopp. The two married in 2022. “My husband was always collecting rubbish back then,” she says today and laughs: “No matter where we were or how smartly he was dressed.” This fit well with her childhood memories. This is how the idea came about to clean the streets together.

The godparents collecting rubbish


The cigarette butt as an enemy: across Switzerland, over 640 sponsors like Rebecca Grzesik collect waste.

SRF / Christoph Brunner

There are around a dozen room sponsorships in Zurich. But the city would like to get more “Göttis” and “Gottis” to collect waste. Wouldn’t it be better to reward the commitment? Niels Michel from Waste Management and Recycling Zurich waves him off. “Payment would take away some of the motivation from the godparents.”

Environmental Protection? Human protection!

According to the city of Zurich, the focus is on the personal motivation that someone would like to clean their living quarters or even their walking path. Rebecca Grzesik, for example, describes the “Fötzele” as fun. “It’s almost addictive.”

And Lukas Tschopp brings the well-being of the community into play. “If nature is doing well, we are all doing well,” says the church president. The word environmental protection therefore falls short. “It should actually mean human protection.”

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