Garbage is a problem in Venice like it is in every other major city, only in Venice it is so much harder collecting it. It is rather difficult to sweep a canal. As a result, there are often garbage in the canals, but don’t complain, pick it up. After all, that’s why kayaks in Venice have bungee cords on the deck.
When paddling around Venice we will often find garbage in the canals, sometimes in the water, sometimes left by the tide on stairs and streets along the canals. This garbage is not necessarily a sign that the people of Venice or the tourists visiting the city are ignorant of the environment. Most of the garbage has been disposed of correctly, but then dispersed by wind, tide, and birds.
Garbage collecting in Venice is, like everything else, done by boat. The municipal garbage collecting agency is called VESTA, and their barges are all green. The barges cannot arrive in front of each house, however, and in the older parts of the city there are no spaces for garbage containers near the canals.
The residents of Venice therefore place the plastic bags with their domestic garbage on their doorstep in the evening, and the garbage collectors then pass in the night with hand drawn carts to collect it and bring it to the barges on the nearest canal.
Unfortunately, the sea gulls have figure this out, and if the calle is quiet enough, they will often tear the plastic bags to shreds before the garbage collectors comes by, leaving the garbage strewn all over the calle. Add a bit of wind or rain, and the garbage will find its way into the water.
This is something the Venetians have lived with for generations, and it is in itself not a huge problem with normal household garbage, had it not been for all the plastic and metal we use in modern packaging of food.
Plastic takes decades to decompose and will float around in the canals until the tide carries it into the lagoon.
When we paddle around the city, we often collect plastic bottles from the water to clean up the city a little bit. VESTA does have some special canal sweepers but they are seldom in working order and even more rarely seen on the canals.