the equivalent of 12 Beaujoire stadia to clean each year, the staggering cost of cleaning up underground graffiti and tags

Graffiti or tag? In both cases, they are often undesirable. In the metropolis of Nantes, they are systematically deleted when they have been made from public space. An endless job that represents a not insignificant cost for the community. As for the surfaces “erased” each year, they are considerable, as you can read.

Graffiti or graff, tag, are two words that designate two different genres but refer to Street-Art. An urban art movement that developed at the end of the 20th century. Sometimes brilliant work, most of the time incomprehensible to the layman, almost always ugly and embarrassing, especially for owners who have just scraped their facades at great cost!

A graffiti is a work that uses different artistic techniques, the best known being spray, stencil or collage. The paints that are used for Street Art are solid since they are designed so that the works of the artists last.

Etiquette is a technique that consists of registering a signature quickly in a frequented place.

The taggers who carry it out want to impose their signature in a certain place. Way to get out of a form of anonymity or to appropriate support.

Problem, one like the other, are appreciated differently. Generally considered impolite by the general public. More rarely as the expression of street art. Municipalities increasingly allow street artists to express themselves in agreed places. And they are on the hunt for illegal immigrants who “sign” their passage on the walls of public buildings as well as those of private individuals.

Many cities have established systems to help people, particularly victims of these unwanted labels. Either by a simple call, or after filing a complaint or at least presenting a handrail at the local police station.

In Nantes, the services of the metropolis monitor the walls that border the public roads and erase everything that is written or painted on the walls.

“We erase the graffiti present in the public space or facades that are in the limit of the public domain up to 3 meters high. All graffiti made by people in public spaces is removed, even on private facades, unless otherwise specified by the owner.”explains Éric Bouchet, head of the urban cleaning department of the Nantes-Loire center at Nantes Métropole.

In a large part of the municipality of Nantes, the erasures are carried out “automatically” by specialized agents, the inhabitants, of course, can always call. In other cities in mainland France, the tags are recorded by cleaning agents or road workers, and a company will make sure they are erased.

“Graffiti is free to remove, it is not covered with paint. Let’s repaint if we have damaged the support. For example, if we have damaged a chair support, as we have a lot in the center of the city, we reheat it in the back to find a natural tone”says Eric Bouchet.

The metropolis is competent only in the public space, it cannot intervene in the many private roads. Not more than gables or high facades. “We have no right to intervene outside the public domain. Apart from being 3 meters high, the responsibility for the graffiti is clearly the co-ownership, access to its cover was poor, since the graffiti artists could access The graffiti that could not be done from the public space”. Accuracy is important.

Therefore, it is up to the condominiums to eliminate them. The national police could demand that they do so within a period of fifteen days, since the departmental sanitary regulations require that all owners have… clean facades!

Removing all graffiti necessarily costs the community. To our taxes for short. Be careful, it stings! “It costs money, from the moment the community has decided to take it into account, we have a company with ten employees assigned to this task, who work in the municipalities of mainland France except for the city center, and we have a management, with about fifteen specially trained agents who work only in the center of the city”.

The budget: between 1.5 million and 2 million euros per year. In the years 2010 – 2015, the technicians cleared from 120 to 130,000 m² per year. Since the surfaces are below. “Here we are in 2016 at 119,000m², in 2017 at 111,000m², 105,000m² in 2018, the covid years have lowered the figures, 91,000m² in 2020 and 87,000m² in 2021”explains Eric Bouchet.

If these figures do not tell you anything, this represents more than 12 times the Beaujoire stadium in 2021. You can consult the calculation, the surface of the grass is 105 by 68 meters, official figures! To your calculators.

“The center of Nantes accounts for two thirds of the graffiti removed each year in all the 24 municipalities of the metropolis”, specifies Eric Bouchet. Abusive or racist political graffiti disappears in 48 hours, excluding weekends, “classic” graffiti can stay up to two weeks.

You would think that you could have anti-graffiti coatings on the walls of cities. Not so simple explains Éric Bouchet: “Permanent anti-graffiti consists of putting on such an impermeable layer to prevent migration to the support, that it will change the nature of the support, and that causes other problems, and gives an unpleasant varnish appearance”.

Little effective, the services of the metropolis reserve this treatment for the walls of the prefecture that are redecorated after each Saturday demonstration. “We put a water-repellent oil repellent with a kind of vegetable oil on which the graffiti will be run with hot water”. During the week, the technicians will put on a layer of oil, ready for the next demonstration on Saturday. I know the story of endless graffiti.

However, this ridiculous prefectural ritual of Saturday is not the most important. Protest graffiti is not the most common. Screw firms and graffiti artists are undoubtedly much more productive.

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