Saturday, May 27, 2017

Love Locks or Love Litter?

Source: AP

The City of Paris just auctioned off about a ton of scrap metal, raising $250,000 for charity.

This was no ordinary junk heap, but 165 parcels of “love locks” that the City of Love stripped from the Pont des Arts in 2015. (See the video here.)

The heavy metal, some 50 tons of it, threatened to ruin the Arts Bridge, a Unesco World Heritage site. City officials worried that lock-laden sheets of the bridge would fall onto the heads of tourists below on the bateaux mouches. That would have been a new kind of guillotine, for which France is also famous.

The love lock auction in Paris
It was a cruel fate for these symbols of eternal love to disappear before they had even had a chance to rust. The auction, however, was a twist of fate, a second life for some of the locks. The city, previously seen as heartless for tearing them down, received hearty publicity for the selling them off in an art-style sale.

The love-lock trend started about a decade ago, but has become a global phenomenon and metallurgical dilemma. Locks are found on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Great Wall of China, near the Millennium Bridge in London and on bridges in Stockholm.

Love locks have even made it to my hometown of Pittsburgh. The city takes a no-nonsense approach, routinely chopping off the locks as it carries out work on its bridges (see a story here).

How did it start? No one knows for sure. But in fact throughout history, it was common for travelers who visited ancient sites—like the Pyramids--to leave their mark. With graffiti.

More often than not today, tourists want to take something, which has led to the whole souvenir industry—itself a French word for memory or remembrance. 

Tourists are still leaving locks around Paris, for example at the Flame of Liberty at the end of the Pont de l’Alma. The weight of the metal threatens to ruin that monument too. The whole thing is making some people so love-lock-sick that they’ve formed an association: No Love Locks.

OK, I get it. Hanging tons of locks from historic sites isn’t exactly sustainable tourism. But, City of Paris, why not channel this romantic energy in the City of Locks by building a monument where tourists are officially encouraged to attest to their love?

Turn Love Litter into Love Art.

Who knows, if locks are recyclable, and recycled once a year through an auction, the whole project could even pay for itself (and then some).  Love Locks Forever!

The annual take-down of the locks isn’t so very romantic, but as we know the bits of metal do tend to get rusty if exposed to harsh conditions for too long. A lot like love.



  1. Guilty! When I was in Paris last October with my family we saw all the locks on the Pont Neuf where you go down for the boat ride. We had seen them in Venice and in NYC and my niece decided she wanted to add one of her own. She bought a lock in a shop in Montmartre and she, her granddaughter, my sister and I went for the "locking ceremony." In the midst of choosing her spot, a "lock seller" noticed 12 yrar old Gracie just looking on so he gave her a lock whereupon grandmother and granddaughter joined their locks together before attaching them to the fence. They then walked to the middle of Pont Neuf and tossed the keys into the river!

  2. Nice to hear from you Iris! I guess the lock is "history" now? Good memories though ...