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Wee ou non: Can green urinals keep Paris streets clean?

Zoe Tabary


Paris, France  /  Thu, September 6, 2018  /  06:04 am
Wee ou non: Can green urinals keep Paris streets clean?

Eco-friendly 'urinoir' on Boulevard de Clichy, Paris, September 1, 2018. (Thomson Reuters Foundation/Zoe Tabary)

Despite outrage over the installation of exposed urinals on their streets, Parisians want authorities to crack down on errant smokers, dogs and litterbugs dirtying their fabled city.

Locals have demanded that the town hall remove four bright red eco-friendly "urinoirs" set up in busy areas, from the Boulevard de Clichy red-light district to the posh Latin Quarter, as part of a drive to clean up the city.

Taxi driver Diallo Mouctar said the "Uritrottoir" - a combination of the French words for urinal and pavement - was "too smelly" and only marginally better than peeing on the road.

"Paris is becoming dirtier and dirtier because people don't take care of it," he said. "Citizens need to do more to keep streets clean ... leaving your cigarette on the pavement, peeing on the sidewalk – that's not normal."

The device, which promises an "eco solution to public peeing", is essentially a box with an opening in the front and a floral display on top, containing straw which transforms into compost for use in parks and gardens.

Other measures passed last year to cleanse Paris include appointing local "clean ambassadors" for each district and launching On my Street, a phone app that allows residents to report piles of waste in the city.

Read also: In Paris, eco-friendly cubist urinals spark sniggers and seething

The eco-friendly urinals are meant to complement public toilets and are "mobile, easy to use and green", the town hall said on its website.

Aissata Ndiaye, a Paris resident in her twenties, welcomed the new urinals, saying the city has "often been compared to a bin" for its dirty streets and smelly metro system.

"I think it's a great idea, and comes at a time when we're trying to get people to care more about public spaces and nature," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But other residents have branded them unsightly and discriminatory against women, with French media reporting last month that some were vandalised.

Yoshiko Inai, Paris coordinator for Green Bird, a Japanese charity which advocates for cleaner streets globally, compared the city's "poor record" on cleanliness to her native Japan.

In Tokyo, "even dogs' pee is cleaned by their owners," she said. "They bring a bottle of water when walking their dog and wash away any traces of pee with it ... if only people in Paris did the same."

Paris city officials did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

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