Eideard

French towns replace rubbish trucks with horse-drawn carts

with 6 comments

Long before recycling became a household word, a Paris prefect called Eugene Poubelle, introduced three separate containers for household waste – glass and pottery, oyster and mussel shells, and the rest – and had horse-drawn carts empty them. Six years later, his surname entered the Academy dictionary as the word for “dustbin”. Now, over a century later, a growing number of French towns are returning to horse-drawn kerbside waste collection, as a better way to recycle.

For Jean Baptiste, mayor of medieval Peyrestortes, near Perpignan and one of 60 towns now using horses to collect waste, the benefit above all is practical. “You can’t turn a waste collection vehicle around here. We used to block streets to traffic and keep waste in open skips.” He sold off a dustbin lorry and acquired two Breton carthorses instead. Asked whether the changes are saving money, he says: “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.”

In Saint Prix, however, in Greater Paris, Mayor Jean-Pierre Enjalbert is certain he is saving money as the novelty of the horses has increased recycling rates. “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.”

Well-established horse-drawn collections also succeed in Trouville, and in Vendargues near Montpellier, but many ventures last only a few months. Sita, France’s second biggest waste management and recycling company, has now integrated the “collecte hippomobile” into three refuse collection circuits in the Aube département in central France.

Sita’s Alexandre Champion, who instigated the idea, points to several factors behind the failed ventures: unsuitable horses, untrained workers or inadequate terrain, poor equipment. Housing estates or old town centres with flat terrain work best, with a circuit of under 20 km a day, he says. But even terrain problems can be overcome, and this autumn Sita starts horse-drawn collection in hilly Verdun, with a pair of strong carthorses…

In Sicily, another place bringing back four-hoofed transport, Mario Cicero, mayor of 14th-century town Castelbuono, disagrees [with naysayers]. He pioneered glass and cardboard collection using two packsaddle donkeys in 2007. Three years on, Cicero has done his sums and calculated a cost saving of 34%, as well as winning over a sceptical population and putting more donkeys to work.

“Compared with €5,000–7,000 annual running costs for a diesel truck, an ass costs €1,000–1,500 and can live 25-30 years. A truck costs around €25,000, lasts around five years and can’t reproduce,” says Cicero, whose four asinelli have now produced 25 offspring, so he won’t even be buying any more.

I knew I recalled blogging about this a few years ago. The Sicilian idea really rocks – and breeding donkeys to expand your workforce, eventually selling to other municipalities is a terrific idea.

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Written by Ed Campbell

October 2, 2010 at 6:00 am

6 Responses

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wally Thames, kon pietka and kon pietka, eideard. eideard said: French towns replace rubbish trucks with horse-drawn carts: French towns replace rubbish trucks with horse-d… http://tinyurl.com/269zxwu [...]

  2. hmnnn, just not so sure about using animals for forced labor…..

    • That’s what being draft animals is all about. Standards of work exist and should be maintained. Otherwise some of these breeds would be allowed to die off.

      Ain’t easy feeding a one-ton pet…

      god

      October 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm

  3. Eideard – I loved your story – give people a little romance and even the mundane becomes fun.

    Why “Mayor Cicero disagrees” ? Should that read ‘agrees”?

    I had Dugg the story. Can I reproduce in our newsletter, with your link?
    regards

    Julia

    Julia Hayes

    October 3, 2010 at 2:44 am

    • 1. Trouble with editing that needs a little rewrite. Mayor Cicero was disagreeing with naysayers – from a preceding paragraph I cut. I have made the correction. Thank you.

      2. Of course, you may reproduce the post. Nary a problem.

      eideard

      October 3, 2010 at 6:02 am

  4. [...] we have raised awareness. People are composting more,” says the mayor of one of the French towns that has succeeded in making the change.  It is actually cost effective, cutting costs by almost [...]


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