Tidsskriftet Kulturstudier
Tidsskriftet Kulturstudier


English summary

Dog shit, cigarette butts and pizza boxes

The garbage found on city streets reflects the consumption patterns of a city and its street life. At one time, horse droppings were left in the streets of Copenhagen, and no one seemed to take any notice. The waste from the horses was considered to be an unavoidable part of city life. The malodorous stench coming from the filthy gutters and the sewage created by craftsmen and shopkeepers, however, were cause for complaint. Today, a few greasy discarded pizza boxes can lead to major campaigns, and fag butts have become more and more visible as garbage, despite the fact that fewer of them are being tossed on the streets.

The garbage on Copenhagen’s streets and the municipality’s different strategies to handle it suggest that the concept of “street garbage” is difficult to grasp. There is no obvious connection between the street garbage that a citizen finds problematic and the amount of the garbage that is actually found on the street. Some types of street garbage are considered to be more disgusting or morally troublesome than others. The city’s campaigns against street garbage and the way that garbage is categorised also contribute to people’s opinions. The Clean City campaigns (Ren By kampagnerne) that took place in 1987 are particularly interesting to analyse because, on the one hand, they reflect the city’s ongoing efforts to utilise new strategies to keep the city clean; on the other hand, these campaigns demonstrate how difficult it can be to manoeuvre between divergent political positions and ways of analyzing the problem while also considering economic priorities and changing cultural values.

The city’s street garbage – no matter how practical and simple a problem it may seem to be – proves difficult for a city like Copenhagen to manage and find effective solutions for because the concept of “street garbage” is constantly changing, just like the everyday routines of the city’s residents and the city’s technological capabilities.