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Fighting The War On Trash

Cops seriously cracking down on jerks who litter

Around the world, warming weather brings picnics, festivals, walks in the park—and garbage. Lots and lots of garbage. Refuse tossed by outdoors-goers, too lazy to clean up after themselves (or too dizzy from sunshine and day-drinking), costs millions each year. That tally also includes dog owners—for whom there is a special place reserved in hell—who do not pick up their pooches’ poo.

The city of Munich recently announced an approach with some swagger—they’ll deploy full-time security guards who, rain or shine, patrol parks for litterers, the Local reports. That decision comes in reaction to the disaster that was last summer, in which the German city shelled out around $5,700 per week to clean up after locals who left behind a total of 150 tons of trash over the short BBQ season. Frankfurt is even more serious, issuing $60 fines for those caught littering and, in some cases, even making them foot the cleanup bill.

Around the globe, different cities are dealing with this trashy problem in their own ways, ranging across a spectrum of carrot-and-stick approaches.

Some Deutsch municipalities have hired teams of students to gently remind people to clean up after themselves by handing out trash bags and flyers (some of which, no doubt, wind up on the ground). Shreveport, Louisiana, is following suit with an initiative called “Operation Keep It Classy,” which includes copious ticket-writing for litterers. (Getting people to actually pay their fines, however, is sometimes a battle unto itself—officials in Waltham Forest, a borough in northeast London, are prosecuting 20 garbage-tossers who refused to pay their fines.)

In Kingston, a town southwest of London, a private firm hired by the city council has handed out 1,605 fines since June (the vast majority of those tickets were for tossing cigarette butts). Offenders sometimes refused to take the tickets, which sometimes prompts officers to tail them around town like trash hawks. As Jon Tolley, a local politician and business owner, told Your Local Guardian, “I don’t believe it’s about cutting the amount of litter, but more about punishing people in a ‘That’ll teach em’ way.”

The city of Miami has its own idea: just ban fun things all together. Following Floatopia, a free outdoor festival held in April, Miami’s beach was left in floaty-strewn shambles, including a “morass” of garbage that rang up a $60,000 bill for the city, the Miami Herald reports. Although Floatopia has long promoted responsible floating, simply asking nicely does not work, apparently. As Floatopia lamented on its Facebook page following the festivities “The level of disrespect shown on our beach yesterday was unimaginable.” This, everyone, is why we can’t have nice things.

As Miami considers strict bans on all floats, coolers, tents and large beach gatherings, some vigilantes are taking garbage patrol duties into their own hands. In a suburb of Madrid, volunteers spent a couple of weeks in 2013 spying on dog owners and, in the case that they failed to clean up after their animals, mailed irresponsible owners their mutt’s feces, the Washington Post reports. The mayor later commented that the “mail bombs” reduced the occurrence of poop on the street by 70 percent.

But confrontations with polluters don’t always go so smoothly. The Gainesville Sun describes a recent incident, for example, in which a driver began throwing trash out of his window and the (Florida) man behind him began honking and attempting to get the driver to pull over. When he finally acquiesced, he punched the concern citizen in the face. Now that is some trashy behavior!

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