Plainclothes rubbish police blitz small Swiss town

Police in the town of Grenchen in canton Solothurn have hailed the results of the first-ever operation dedicated to catching people in the act of littering.

Plainclothes rubbish police blitz small Swiss town
File photo: Depositphotos

Four police officers handed out a total of 25 fines of 40 Swiss francs (€35.40) during the two-day blitz in early May, local police chief Christian Ambühl told the Grenchner Tagblatt newspaper.

“Almost everyone picked up their rubbish and paid the fine without objecting. In most cases, it was just thoughtlessness,” he said.

Read also: Swiss canton introduces 300-franc fine for littering

After the success of the recent operation, police are now looking at more deploying rubbish patrols in future – partly to raise public awareness of the problem but also to help clean up the town's image.

Grenchen already has measures in place to clean up its streets.

As in many Swiss towns, rubbish must be disposed of in official rubbish bags or by attaching municipal tax stickers to other non-standard bags to show the relevant charge has been paid.

Some people try and get around the associated costs by dumping their garbage bags illegally.

But in the case of notorious serial offenders, authorities go through rubbish bags left on the street looking for a name or an address. Around ten to 15 times a year, they are able to identify a rubbish offender. In these cases, the fine is 100 francs.

Read also: 20 telltale signs you have gone native in Switzerland

In what can be a game of cat and mouse, however, some people cut out addresses on envelopes before putting them in their rubbish bags.

One such offender in Grenchen was only caught after a special surveillance camera was set up by police.

An industrial centre with relatively high unemployment, Grenchen was last year the subject of a controversial documentary aired by Swiss public broadcaster SRF. 

The documentary called The Silent Majority saw the town depicted as centre of voter apathy and “the shadow side of globalization”.

Many locals felt the film was unfair and that the interviews it contained were unrepresentative.

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‘Disgusting dumpsters’: Rome garbage crisis sparks health fears

Landfills in flames and rats feasting on waste in the streets have sparked health fears in Rome, as doctors warn families to steer clear of disease-ridden curbside garbage and locals launch a disgusting dumpster contest online.

'Disgusting dumpsters': Rome garbage crisis sparks health fears
Residents have even launched a 'disgusting dumpster' competition on Twitter. Photo:Tiziana FABI / AFP
Crowds of summer tourists are forced to navigate overflowing bins in the stifling heat, as the pungent perfume of neglected garbage draws scavenging animals and the threat of disease to the Eternal City and locals fume over the city's refuse management.  
Rome's chief physician Antonio Magi has issued a “hygiene alert”, telling AFP this could be upgraded to a health warning, with disease spread through the faeces of insects and animals banqueting on rotting waste. His warning prompted local prosecutors to open an investigation this week into the city's refuse collection.
In the meantime, furious Rome residents have launched a contest on Twitter to find the most fetid dustbins.
Discarded pizza boxes or the remains of spaghetti lunches and fruit rinds draw opportunistic seagulls, rats and even wild boars to the streets of Rome, with wolves also spotted closer to the city's outskirts than ever before.
Adding to the indignation of Rome residents is the steep price they are paying for their garbage to rot in the streets.  
The city spent more than 597 euros ($670) per inhabitant on household waste treatment in 2017 — by far the highest in the country, ahead of Venice (353 euros) and Florence (266 euros), according to a report by the Openpolis Foundation.
But the city lacks infrastructure: of its three main landfills, one has closed and the others were ravaged by fire in recent months.   
And two biological treatment sites have reduced their activities for maintenance work.
'Degradation and abandonment' 
Some residents make matters worse by simply dumping their old mattresses, fridges and sofas next to garbage bins.
But local Salvatore Orlando, 50, told AFP the council was entirely to blame.
“Of course it's the mayor's fault. You certainly can't blame the citizens,” he said. “They produce waste, they have to throw it away, and the public services have to collect it. It's simple. We pay taxes for it”.
Rome's mayor and the president of the Lazio region both assured Italy's environment minister Tuesday that the crisis would be resolved “within 15 days”.
But to do so, more of the city's 5,000 tons of daily waste will have to be sent for incineration elsewhere.
“Everyone complains about waste but no one wants an incinerator. Instead, we take the waste abroad, to Austria, to Germany!”, another aggrieved resident said, declining to give his name.
Even Pope Francis has commented on the decline, lamenting in June Rome's “degradation and abandonment”.
Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, has jumped on the chance to use the crisis as a political weapon against mayor Virginia Raggi, who hails from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).
The stench and sticky pavements have given him ammunition ahead of the next municipal elections, scheduled for 2021. But in a city where key sectors are riddled with inefficiency and corruption, residents will wonder whether Salvini has a magic recipe for resolving a situation that has stumped parties over the years across the political spectrum.
In the meantime, rubbish is just one more daily challenge in a city with countless potholes, trees that topple at the first gust of wind and buses that catch fire — if their engines start at all.