Image: la Communauté d'Agglomération de Montpellier, AFP Photo : AFP via Caradisiac.com
I’ve blogged several times in the past about high-tech curbside waste collection programs sprouting up across the U.S. From an initiative in Cleveland where “smart” bins embedded with radio frequency ID chips monitor residents’ recycling habits (or non-habits) to incentive-based recycling programs where homeowners can go online and snag swag after scoring enough “points” based on their recycling habits, the mundane act of dragging one’s waste to the curb increasingly involves microchips, scannable barcodes, remote policing, and prizes.
And then there’s a curbside waste collection movement in France that’s decidedly much more low-tech. As reported by The Guardian, the hot new old thing in as many as 60 French communities is collecting waste via horse-drawn carts. Yep, numerous towns have ditched garbage trucks and opted to put trash collectors in the carriage instead of behind the wheel. Why? It just makes sense.
Mayor Jean Baptiste of Peyrestortes sold off his village’s garbage truck and purchased two Breton carthorses for logistical reasons. He says: “You can't turn a waste collection vehicle around here. We used to block streets to traffic and keep waste in open skips.” When asked if the switch from petrol power to hoof power has had financial perks, Baptiste states: "It's too early. But money isn't the only reason. The exhaust smells have gone, the noise has gone, and instead we have the clip-clop of horses' hooves."
And then there's Jean-Pierre Enjalbert, the mayor of Saint Prix, who is convinced the horse-drawn carriage method of curbside trash collection has boosted recycling rates and, in turn, saved his town money: “By using the horse for garden waste collection, we have raised awareness. People are composting more. Incineration used to cost us €107 a tonne, ridiculous for burning wet matter, now we only pay €37 to collect and compost the waste."
As The Guardian points out, ditching trucks for horses doesn’t always stick with some programs lasting only a few months. Alexandre Champion of Sita, France’s second largest waste management and recycling firm and the force behind France's "Collecte Hippomobile" programs, blames untrained workers, bad equipment, unsuitable horses, and difficult terrain as the primary factors for these failures.
It will be a cold day in hell when the clattering of hooves replaces the rumble of garbage trucks on my narrow street in Brooklyn. I’m guessing that the same goes for any other major municipality on this side of the Atlantic. Still, I like this fossil fuel-free waste collection concept (and what a much more pleasant sound to make up to at 5 am!) although I do have to wonder about the “natural” fumes produced by the horses.
What do you think? Would a waste collection service that incorporates horse-drawn carts instead of a truck ever fly in your town?