Prague to fine those caught littering

Prague City Hall has launched a new campaign to clamp down on litter in the capital. As of July 1, those caught littering in the city can expect big fines. Councillors say the new system has already been proved to work in other European capitals, though critics say the clean-up drive just stinks.

Walking along a Prague street such as this one in the rather smart neighbourhood of Vinohrady can often be a perilous task. There’s a lot of dog dirt to navigate one’s way around and then there’s the litter; old food-packaging, sticky patches of chewing gum and cigarette ends - all to be watched out for.

But, at least in theory, all that is about to change, with Prague Town Hall taking a tough new stance against littering in the capital. As of July 1, those caught spitting out gum, dropping cigarette ends, not cleaning up their dog’s mess and even feeding the pigeons will face a fine of up to 30,000 crowns (1,850 USD).

Police in the capital will be given powers to stop and fine litterers. Those caught will either be given on the spot fines of up to 1,000 crowns (around 62 USD), or sent to the authorities, where they will have to pay more.

Prague’s new tough stance towards litter will affect both those caught vomiting and urinating in public, and those who leave soap suds all over the street after washing their car. Councillors say they took their no-tolerance template from other western European cities, where they say a system of fining litterbugs has been proven to work well.

Czech towns which have already implemented such a penalty system for littering say that it has been a success. Councillors from Karvina in the northeast of the country have said that fining litterers was by no means a popular move when it was implemented five years ago. But, they say the scheme has worked wonders, and the town has cleaned up its act considerably.

Similarly in Prague, it doesn’t look like the new litter ban will receive a warm welcome from absolutely everyone. One newspaper took the chance to compare the ban to other ‘ridiculous laws’ which, it said, ‘interfere with people’s lives to an absurd degree’. We’ll see if the litter campaign will curry favour with Czechs, impressed by the increased cleanliness of their streets - or whether the bill's critics will find sympathy for their claim that the idea stinks.