There are a number of aldermen in Milwaukee who have taken on as a cause the blight of stray shopping carts. This topic has been discussed by the Common Council's Public Safety Committee three or four times now, and it's coming up again. These cart crusaders, led by Ald. Bob Donovan, want to impose expensive new requirments on retailers to make sure those carts are kept coralled.
That's all fine and dandy. It sounds a bit strange at first, but it's hard not to sympathize with the aldercritters when DPW folks testify about how many of those darned carts they pick up every week. Nobody wants their neighborhood to look like a shopping cart graveyard.
But, excuse me. Shopping carts are not the biggest litter problem the city faces. Litter is.
So why aldermen are holding grocery stores responsible for the carts, why not hold fast food restaurants responsible for the garbage that starts in their establishments and ends up everywhere? If the city can expect retailers to get together to hire a truck to pick up shopping carts, why can't they demand that the fast food empires -- especially McDonald's -- pick up the brightly colored fast food garbage that is dumped in streets and parking lots and on sidewalks and lawns everywhere in the city?
Are retailers being called to task because shopping carts are bigger? But which is really the worse problem? If all the fast food litter were weighed and all the stray shopping carts were weighed, which would would be heavier?
There are other things that people seem to believe don't really count as litter -- plastic water bottles, plastic water bottle caps, cigarette butts, cigarette packs, and alcohol containers of every kind.
Garbage is indeed a blight that is eating away at the city aesthetic.
The people who actually do the littering should, of course, be held accountable. The Public Safety Committee, though, is going after the businesses that distribute carts to customers, even though those businesses do not intend for their carts to be stolen and then abandoned. The city should apply very similar standards to other businesses that generate that packaging that turns into litter.