Bring Out Your Trash

Night-time trash collection on Xintian Road 新田路 in Kaohsiung 高雄市
Night-time trash collection on Xintian Road 新田路 in Kaohsiung 高雄市

If you happen to hear a synthesised, monophonic rendition of either Für Elise, or Bądarzewska’s ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’ echoing through the streets of Taiwan, crowds of residents heeding the call, bearing bin-bags full of rubbish are sure to follow at street-level, awaiting the garbage trucks that are responsible for broadcasting the sweet symphonies.

In a system that’s garnered international praise, garbage is collected multiple times per day, from fleets of trucks, each collecting a different category of waste. In the photo I took above, the vehicle’s signage indicates that this particular truck is for compostable refuse, but the idea is that in a country where space to keep it is limited, and the climate accelerates it’s decomposition; you don’t really want it hanging around, so the system operates on an “it doesn’t touch the floor” philosophy to prevent the cities from becoming junk strewn waste havens.

It seems to work well in practice, with the country having a recycle rate of 55%

(although this figure has been disputed), ahead of both the UK (45.2%) and US (34.6%), even if it does mean you can no longer listen to Beethoven without feeling an irresistible urge to start emptying your bins.

As an aside, at the end of the day when I was looking through my photos and found this one, I was a little annoyed by the woman in the yellow shirt unwittingly spoiling the composition – then I read the slogan emblazoned on it, and decided it actually made this image all the better – ‘trashy’ indeed!

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