Urban Planning

Can reducing the amount of trash in cities be practical and economical? : urbanplanning

First off, apologies if this thread is a bit off topic. As someone who loves watching restored historical footage, I’ve been falling down something of a rabbit hole of watching footage of cities from 50+ years ago, as it feeds into my interests of urbanism and history. Some examples of these videos:

Now, to clarify, I don’t at all want to imply those times were better or are anything we should necessarily yearn for. But that said, the cities shown in these historical videos have much less litter (as in trash just tossed in the street) and less garbage (as in trash hauled to the curb) than their modern counterparts.

There’s a few obvious reasons for this. One simply being that fitting more people in the same amount of space results in more trash being produced. Another reason being that disposing of trash has simply become more expensive; recycling programs, filtering incineration waste, and not dumping into the ocean are all great things, but they do increase cost overheads. And finally, people produce far more trash per person than they did in the past – 100 years ago the average person produced ~100 lbs of garbage per year, while the modern figure is over 6 times that.

So if garbage is a problem apparent in many cities, what is the most practical solution to it? Stopping the problem at the source by severely limiting the use of single-use containers seems like the best approach, but implementing such a law on a city-wide level isn’t realistic. Spending more on cleanup crews and sanitization departments seems like the next best thing, but that’s just throwing money at the symptoms of an underlying problem. Is there even a practical solution that can realistically be implemented on a city-wide level to effectively deal with the issue of trash / litter?

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