COMPLAINTS about the state of Madrid’s streets are a regular fixture on social media, with residents of the city centre in particular often sharing images of recycling points overflowing not just with cardboard boxes, but ordinary refuse too.

In apparent response to this anger among citizens, City Hall has embarked on a hardline campaign, and has even gone so far as to fine one woman €2,001 for leaving a cardboard box on the street. 

According to Spanish daily El País, municipal inspectors found the woman’s name and address on the said box, which had been used to deliver an online order of baby’s nappies. The box had been left on the street in the neighbourhood of Aravaca, in the north of the capital, next to a rubbish container. 

The fine of €2,001 is much higher than those levied for some driving offences, for example, which can range from €100 to €1,000.

To add insult to injury, the woman had not even left the box there herself. Speaking to El País on the condition of anonymity, she explained that an employee is responsible for taking the trash out from her building, and that was how the box had ended up on the street. 

The woman can appeal the fine, but it arrived accompanied by images of the infraction, not unlike the process for a traffic fine. 

It is precisely this kind of littering that the city’s environment chief, Borja Carabante, said that he wanted to combat last Thursday, when he announced the plan. 

Thanks to the rise in the use of online delivery services such as Amazon, the cardboard boxes that such items arrive in are often left abandoned on the street, with citizens not taking the time to break down the box so it can be posted through the narrow gap in the recycling bins. 

The new legislation passed by Madrid City Hall, aimed at improving quality of life for residents, also includes fines of up to €3,000 for anyone caught leaving graffiti and a ban on dropping glass into recycling points between 10pm and 8am. 

Madrid will have a total of 230 inspectors who will be checking up on rubbish left on the street – a job that will be made easier thanks to so many of the abandoned packages carrying a label with the name and address of their former owner. 

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