Out and about in Brussels, I came across an odd sight. In the midst of the city, two horses, a cart and a man in a fluorescent vest. Driven by curiosity I edged nearer to get a closer glimpse. On the side was the French equivalent of ‘Schaerbeek Waste Collection’. It turns out the scheme is in fact an eco-friendly initiative of the Schaerbeek commune of Brussels.
Intitiated in 2011, this scheme is not the first of its’ kind. The come-back of horse drawn rubbish collection began in several towns across France. Waste and recycling company ‘Suez Environnement’ began trialling the idea as a complimentary method to be enlisted alongside traditional rubbish collection. The aim was both to reduce carbon emissions and to save money.
What are the advantages?
Long term reduced costs
The monetary benefits of Horse-drawn rubbish collection may not be immediately apparent. The initial capital investment is high. However, with minimal running costs. the scheme can save money in the long run.
Carbon dioxide emissions
The use of horse-drawn rubbish trucks does reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The cutting of petrol costs also results in reduced noise and air pollution.
Increased rates of recycling
Suez Environnment found that residents impacted by the new scheme recycled 17% more than before. The company’s spokeswomen Helene Enginger said:
“We have found that for some reason when people see the horse they are motivated to recycle more of their waste”.
In the same respect, the project hopes to build a stronger relationship between residents and traditionally under-valued rubbish collectors.
What is the future for this initiative?
This interesting initiative may be applicable in other cities across Europe and the world. Suez Environnement also owns the large scale rubbish collection company Sita UK. There has been interest to expand the project there based on the successes in France.
However, there are certainly some limiting factors to its success. With smaller capacities, horse-drawn carts may be only suitable for areas immediately surrounding the refuse centre. If the collection vehicules must return frequently, the environmental and monetary costs would rise. It is yet to be seen whether this scheme has potential on a large city scale, or whether it may be better suited for smaller towns.
Nevertheless, we should certainly not dismiss this scheme as backwards. It deserves further attention as a money-saving, community strengthening, environmental scheme.
Acacia Smith is a New Zealander now based in London. She holds a bachelor degree and postgraduate diploma from Victoria University of Wellington. She has worked for the Council for International Development (CID) and more recently in Bolivia for CIWY, a network of private parks for the rehabilitation and conservation of Amazonian fauna. Acacia is passionate about sustainability and the role businesses can play in promoting a better, more sustainable future.