Baltimore has a decades-old war on trash cans

Daniel Buccino's op-ed piece, "Does Baltimore think trash cans cause litter?" (Nov. 6) spotlights an illogical trash policy that has plagued this city for at least 20 years.

There used to be big trash cans at many trail-heads leading down to Liberty Reservoir, one of three large lakes whose contents and wooded surroundings are managed by the city and are Baltimore's clean water source. In my book "Soldiers Delight Journal," I mentioned picking up trash with my wife around one of Liberty's lovely coves to improve its beauty and purity. What I didn't say in the book was that we left that trash in the big can as we exited the woods. Then we cleaned up another spot the next weekend. A week or two later we noticed that the big trash cans had disappeared. When I called the city, they said they could no longer afford to pick up trash at the reservoirs, so all cans were removed.

That was in 1991. Nearby parklands soon followed suit. The new policy was "take it in, take it out," and a similar slogan was actually posted on the grounds. Presumably the idealistic logic was that if you ask people beforehand not to drop litter, they won't, and then there is no need for trash cans anywhere! Yes sir, just announce "Please don't litter" or "Please take it with you" and you've eliminated the need for those pesky trash removal budgets. This has huge potential. Post signs asking people to please not commit crimes, and there's no need for that irritating law enforcement budget, either. The applications are potentially vast.

But the trash can thing has been going on for at least two decades.

It's not that Baltimore thinks trash cans cause litter. It's more that trash cans cause them trouble and expense. And we can't have that!

Jack Wennerstrom

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