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Germans deploy talking überbin

War on litter takes to the streets

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The good burghers of Berlin believe they have found the answer to litter-ravaged streets - talking rubbish bins which thank citizens for their deposits.

"We want to encourage people in a nice, funny way to throw their trash in the baskets and not on the street," said city official Bernd Mueller. The bins, he insisted, would show that Berlin is "a modern city with high-tech services, and that it is also very cosmopolitan."

Cosmopolitan indeed, since the überbins can be programmed to say "thankyou" in a range of languages. Other technological litter-busting innovations include the receptacle's ability to keep schtum after dark - lest they spook nocturnal Berliners - and offer instead a pleasant green glow to entice would-be litterbugs.

We applaud this innovation, but alas fear there's little it could contribute to the UK's own war on litter. On the contrary, it would serve only to exacerbate the problem since gangs of baseball-bat wielding teen ne'er-do-wells, fuelled by alcopops, commonly roam the UK's shopping centres looking to reduce such electronic civic amenities to their component parts.

Since the Germans are apparently not afflicted by this social malaise, visitors to Berlin during 2004 can look forward litter-free vistas of the Reichstag and other top attractions. Plus, of course, the exciting prospect of seeing what a talking bin looks like. Good show. ®

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