“I can recall being in Paris and being so impressed with Jacques Chirac’s team of motorcycle cleaners (moto-crottes, dubbed the “Chiraclettes”). These guys looked like people from Outer Space in their near-luminous green overalls, and their motorbikes contained vacuum cleaners that sucked up the offending mess, and also a water tank and soapy shampoo, which they immediately applied to the area where the offending item had been.” Dai Woosnam, Grimsby, UK
I believe that many dog owners are an inconsiderate breed and everywhere they should be required to take more responsibility for the anti-social behaviour of their animals but perhaps nowhere more so than in France.
As I have mentioned here before in ‘The Chronicles of Waste’’, which is a collection of my memories of working in the waste management industry, I worked for a French Company called Onyx UK, which was part of the French Water Company Compagnie Générale des Eaux and which through its network of companies also had responsibility for cleaning the streets of Paris.
This included removing the all the dog deposits and as there was so much of the offensive mess littering the streets their research and development team was working overtime on trying to develop new vehicle solutions to tackle the problem. A lot of street cleaning in Paris involves hosing down the pavements and flushing all litter into the water channels which are then flushed into the sewer system but even water hosing was not always capable of dealing with the sticky piles of excrement and it was simply smeared along the paving slabs or, worst of all, in between the cobbles just waiting for an unsuspecting Parisian or a tourist to step in it and spoil their day.
Onyx are best remembered for their dog poop motorbikes which as Dai said sucked up the mess by vacuum and then cleaned and disinfected the little patch of bacteria and germs that was left behind but they also introduced other innovative methods of removal including my favourite which was a two wheeled chariot like machine (rather like those contraptions that tourists can hire for easy sightseeing in big European cities) which had a container of liquid nitrogen which could be sprayed on the pile of mess and deep freeze it so that it could be more easily scooped up. This didn’t really catch on mostly because it was extremely dangerous and there were health and safety implications in using a chemical that if administered carelessly could lead to fingers or toes being frozen and accidently snapped off.
The French were rather proud of these expensive and useless machines and attempted to persuade some of their UK clients to introduce them on this side of the English Channel.
They had a contract with the City of Westminster and tried hard to persuade the client officers there to approve their use on the streets of London. Quite sensibly however the Council was not going to allow Westminster street cleaners to wander around the streets with liquid nitrogen! They wouldn’t have been safe to use anyway because it is almost certain that the poor man operating the machine would have been mugged and the vehicle would have been stolen within five minutes of leaving the depot. So they said ‘non merci’ and Onyx UK had to send all of the vehicles that they had hoped to sell in England back to Paris where they were probably returned to a warehouse and were never used. This of course was typical of the profligacy and waste at Onyx UK and a contributory reason for them never making any profits from their under-priced contracts.
As it happens, these things are not even used in Paris anymore. They simply couldn’t cope with the volume of poo on the streets, operating them was unpopular because cleaning them was unhygienic and smelly and when the contracts came to an end they were simply not renewed.
It also occurred to the authorities that by accepting responsibility for picking it up this didn’t deal with the problem that it is part of the French culture that dog owners seem to think that dog parcels on the pavements is somebody else’s problem even if it was their own canine companion that put it there. It is such an issue that the Japanese even used it as an argument against the Paris bid to host the Olympic Games.
Having removed the patrols, the French authorities are now trying to tackle the problem in an alternative way but are making disappointing progress and even heavy fines, €185 for a first offence and €450 for a second, have had little impact. It is estimated that in Paris alone there are sixteen tonnes of dog excrement deposited on the pavements every day, which is responsible for nearly five-thousand messy incidents a week and at least two seious accidents a day and removing it continues to cost €15m a year! As Dai mentioned in his comment: ‘Well, it does not seem to be totally working in Paris. Certainly, I encountered a small amount of such mess when in France just last month.’
If dogs are really as smart as their owners would have us believe then here is the solution…
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