Lately I’ve been down in the dumps. Or it’s probably more accurate to say just in the dumps, full stop, as most of the time it feels like I am living in an actual rubbish dump. Capital cities tend not to be a country’s cleanest place, and Paris boosts that stereotype as if rubbish will soon be going out of fashion. The Japanese reportedly find the city off-puttingly filthy, and one council minister pointed towards the endless crud on the streets as the major factor in Paris’ failure to secure the 2012 Olympics. With the bid for the 2024 games in full swing, it’s astounding to see that not much has changed.
Personally, sometimes the prospect of wading through a tide of trash is seriously enough to keep me from going outside. If I do manage to pluck up the courage and venture out, I know within just a few metres I’ll be greeted with an abandoned pile of furniture, an old mattress, or a sorry mound of discarded clothes (the photos illustrate a daily reality). It’s not just a few empty crisp packets or plastic bottles that have been carelessly tossed aside left languishing in the gutter, oh no. That’s the least of our problems. I kid you not, pretty much every time I go for a wander I’ll see a dumped toilet or bathroom sink (sometimes even several) left for someone else to deal with, and that’s without even leaving the 18th. And don’t get me started on half-empty tins of paint left for dead, I could gather enough in a couple of months to paint the inside of the Louvre. I really should think of inventing some kind of waste item bingo.
Maybe it’s not as bad as all that you might think, and thankfully it isn’t all doom and gloom. The parts the tourists see tend to be kept relatively litter-free compared to neighbourhood backwaters (hang on a minute, that’s not fair!), and current spending on keeping Paris looking sharp totals €500 million. So far this year more than 34,000 fines have been handed out to offenders of filth, and with green leaner Anne Hidalgo occupying the Paris mayor chair, efforts have been notably stepped up.
For those who have cleanliness in mind, the city offers every possible service available to help residents dispose of their rubbish properly and responsibly. If you’re a visitor and have ever wondered just how this whole waste management thing works in France’s capital (c’mon, who hasn’t?!), here goes. Residential bins come in three colours; green for general waste, yellow for recycling paper, tins and (certain) plastics, and white for glass. Anything too big for the bins can be left on the streets and the council contacted to come and collect it. We tend to not have cars here you see, so getting down to the dump with that old wardrobe is kind of tricky left to our own devices…
Then you have the urban saviours, dressed in yellow and green, wheely bin and broom in hand, sweeping the pavements and shimmying the rubbish into the gutter via a stream of water that comes from the Seine (so it’s not wasted water, don’t fret!), and carries it away to be appropriately disposed of. Then you have a whole host of receptacles placed on street corners and the like ready to swallow your recyclable rubbish and old clothes. When you think about it, there’s no excuse NOT to be clean, save for laziness and general apathy, apparently in abundant supply in my patch anyhow.
Now you may be wondering if there’s a point to all of this ranting. Well, I wish there was a solution I could offer (save for PUT THINGS IN THE BIN!), but really I’d just like to offer an apology on behalf of the city of Paris for those visiting who find a less than immaculate reception. The council is doing its upmost to solve the problem, so don’t be hating on them. I guess my exasperation has just tipped over to prompt me to write this post (and I’ve always endeavoured to try and show you the real Paris as much as possible, good AND bad), and to remind everyone, visitors and residents alike (not that I really need to however) to keep it clean guys, keep it clean. PLEASE.