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Three ideas for L.A.'s holiday trash problem

More than 33,000 tons of trash were removed from city streets in 2013-14

Los Angeles, where garbage is trashed.

Where bodies turn up at waste processing facilities.

Where fear of bodies inside garbage dumpsters prompts the dumping of their contents all over downtown streets.   

Where on the coast, it's on the land and in the sea

This is a place where trash-talking is taken literally; Kobe Bryant recently said fellow Lakers were "soft like Charmin."

Now the Times' David Zahniser reports about one of the less charming aspects of the holiday season: "The holidays are a time for giving, and in Los Angeles, many have the good fortune to provide generously for others. But once everybody receives their new stuff, a lot of the old stuff gets pitched onto the street. In the final days of the year, many of L.A.'s streets and sidewalks are littered with discarded furniture, mattresses, oversized televisions and other household objects."

More than 33,000 tons of trash were removed from city streets in 2013-14.

Lest you be tempted to take solace in the fact that this statistic has remained fairly static over the last few years, give not into temptation: "The number of tons of discarded items picked up has stayed roughly the same. Sanitation officials believe that's because the products being tossed out are being made with lighter materials. They also contend scavengers are taking a lot of the heavier stuff, like metal."

Thank God for the scavengers. After them, the deluge.

In the spirit of the holiday season, I'd like to focus on the positive aspect of this phenomenon. Fact is, litter is a sign of prosperity. Or consumerism. Is there a difference? While traveling in Afghanistan in 2001, I was struck by how little litter there was in that war-torn country. The poverty was so deep that everything, including empty plastic bottles, got used by someone for something. Looking around at Los Angeles' filthy streets, piling up with garbage, it logically follows that what one is witnessing is the exact opposite, the hamburger to the steak, the yin to the yang, the necessary byproduct of Rodeo Drive.

OK, probably not.

In the spirit of those Afghans 13 years ago, however, it occurs to me that there might be ways to put all that garbage to good use. Thus this week's cartoon.

(The middle panel with the dump truck is inspired by an obscure historical event, the Paris mine collapse of 1774. After it became apparent that the expanding French capital was in danger of falling into a series of abandoned mines that had previously been on the outskirts of the city, Paris officials began filling them up with debris, garbage and even centuries-old human remains excavated from tombs.)

Follow Ted Rall on Twitter @tedrall

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