A short reflection on litter in two cities

OF course, it’s asking for trouble to go on holiday, only to find oneself reflecting on how life back home could be so much better.

The culprit on this occasion is the Spanish city of Malaga – in particular, its Old Town. It’s a direct flight from Edinburgh, and while social media is awash with pictures of over-flowing litter bins in Scotland’s capital, there is not a single litter bin to be seen in Malaga that is even threatening to spill over.

This is day one of a wander around the marbled streets of this fine, chilled and civilised part of the city. And we’re past three dozen, counting the number of people working away, applying jet hoses, tending grass verges and driving road sweepers.

Remove the romanticism that always attaches itself to being on holiday, and the conclusion is still impossible to escape.

Here is a city that cares, it is doing it everyday in a way that everyone can see and be uplifted by. 

And, judging by the relative lack of graffiti (of course, like every city, there’s graffiti) and general mess, it seems like the local population are responding in kind.

This is central Malaga, very much a working town but with a fair, few visitors. And central Edinburgh – also a working town with a fair, few visitors – does not compare. Its filth has become a political plank in the upcoming local elections, and of course the answer might be a ‘deep clean’, as espoused by at least on of the parties contesting the plebiscite.

But it’s the everyday cleaning that probably matters more. 

The message seems clear enough. It’s the reverse of what appears to be happening in Edinburgh where, somehow, the assumption pervades that individuals will take it upon themselves to be good citizens

Which gei few of us are doing. Just open your eyes.

Here, on holiday, it’s obvious that the city authorities have taken it upon themselves the mantle of being the good citizen.

They even wash their streets here.

Mike Wilson is a member of the Place Design Scotland team

Picture credit: Place Design Scotland

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