Philadelphia. The difficulties to be surmounted in this city are even greater than in Paris or London, because of the peculiar shape of the city, and because we are surrounded by water. But this is a digression.
It is a common belief, reiterated in the daily journals, that the household and street refuse of Paris is sold for enormous amounts, and that so much money is received on this account that the street cleaning service of that city is a source of revenue instead of expense. This is not so. The chief revenue in this regard is derived from the rag-pickers. In New York these people ransack the boxes and barrels on the street, without paying for the privilege, and all that they collect brings them a clear profit. In Paris, on the other hand, the privilege of rummaging the dust-heaps is farmed out to wealthy contractors, who employ about 7,000 chiffoniers, and have a monopoly of rag-picking. So far as I can ascertain, this is the only source of actual revenue to the city of Paris from its street refuse, and what the amount of this revenue is I can not learn. It is very hard to find out anything about the municipal expenditures of that city, as it has no official journal like our "City Record."
Now, let us see what are the practical results of the methods of street-cleaning and removal of household refuse adopted in Paris:
"Street-cleaning in cities has for its aim the removal of dust, mud, snow, filth, and household refuse. As regards the latter, which ought to be thrown directly into the carts, municipal regulations in Paris continually conflict with a corporation very jealous of its privileges; I refer to that of the rag-pickers, who conduct a business represented by nearly 7,000 persons, collecting with their hooks material worth 4,000,000 francs ($800,000) a year, and feeding the manufactories of paper, pasteboard, lampblack, etc. We are obliged, therefore, to yield to the demands of these Diogenes of the street, and to allow, to the great prejudice of sight, smell, and health, the throwing upon the public street, toward evening, of all kinds of refuse, to be picked over by the hook of the rag-picker. They insist upon this, and they wield a great power."—(Fonssagrives, "Hygiène et Assainissement des Villes," Paris, 1874, p. 174.)
"In Freycinet's opinion ('Assainissement des Villes,' p. 343), as far as promptness and completeness of street-cleaning in the narrower sense are concerned, Paris is in advance of all other great cities; but it is not so with the household refuse, which, in the absence of special means of removal, must naturally take its way over the street. Although this refuse, intended for removal and thrown on the street for this purpose, ought to he taken away at an early hour of the morning, it often remains upon the street till evening, is scattered about, etc., and all, according to Freycinet, because they do not wish to interfere with the unhealthy occupation of the rag-pickers, who rummage the mess for rags and bones."—(Götel, "Oeffentl. Gesundheitspfl. in den Ausserdeutschen Staaten," Leipsic, 1878, p. 205. The italics are mine.)