‘Trashed Paris’: Is the French capital dirtier than ever?

'Trashed Paris': Is the French capital dirtier than ever?
Empty bottles were left by the Seine river banks in the capital as French police patrolled to ensure Parisians complied with the health rules on February 20th. Photo: Bertrand GUAY / AFP
Parisians have taken to social media to lament the state of their city, which they say has lost its glory under mounting piles of filth.

In recent days the hashtag #saccageparis (trashed or ruined Paris) went viral on Twitter as Parisians published photos of what they said is an increasingly dirty and ugly capital.

Bins overflowing with garbage, graffiti-covered buildings, rotting benches and crumbling pavements were photographed and shared on the social media platform to alert others that the City of Light has lost its shine.

In large part the social media movement blamed Socialist Party mayor Anne Hidalgo for the mess, claiming the state of the city had degraded since she came to power in 2014.

The latest campaign might be politically motivated but the reality is Paris has struggled to clean itself up for years now, and the stench of pipi (pee) in the streets and the sight of litter strewn across streets is a long-established problem.

And it can’t all be blamed on the mayor.

READ ALSO: ‘Don’t pee on Paris’ – Do Parisians behave more anti-socially than the rest of France?

Hidalgo has ramped up efforts to rid the French capital of its filthy image, increasing the city’s “civility police” from 96 to over 3,200 in 2017. (Over 5,000 people were fined for peeing in the street that year.)

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She has often blamed Parisians themselves for the litter problem.

“It’s an educational problem, and I think we have to start all over again,” Hidalgo said in 2019. “Respect education, respect for others, respect for the environment, respect for the place where you live.”

But some of the furious inhabitants said it was the Socialist Party mayor’s efforts to make the capital more environmental-friendly by installing wooden benches and multiplying the number of bike lanes in the city that was taking its toll on the city’s image.

The mayor’s office denounced #saccageparis as a “smear campaign” and said some of the pictures posted were dated or taken just before the city’s cleaners intervened.

READ ALSO: Why the stench of pee may never leave Paris

“Like all cities in France, Paris is faced with incivility and problems of regulating public space,” the City Hall said in a statement on Twitter.

It added that its cleaning teams were reduced by 10 percent due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said this was “unfortunately the lot of social media”, through creating “social bubbles”.

“What you see may seem like it represents reality, but it is often more complex than that,” he told French daily Le Parisien on Thursday.

Hidalgo is believed to be considering running for next year’s French presidential election.

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Member comments

  1. The only solution is to get brutally tough on graffiti spouting vandals and litterbugs. Heavy fines and jail terms are possible solutions. Some Singapore-style caning of offenders too may not be a bad idea.

  2. Cheap shot blaming Hidalgo. This is happening everywhere, not just Paris, not just France. You can put out all the bins and provide all the clean-up services you like, it’s a growing mentality of people just not giving a damn about their neighbourhoods, their neighbours, or the planet. And I have no idea as to how you would go about changing that.

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