Watch: Classical Garbage Pickup

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 06:10 PM

Garbage trucks in Taiwan have a curious way of announcing their presence: by loudly playing classical music standards like Beethoven’s Für Elise. It’s not unlike the bleating of ice cream trucks in the US every summer, universally recognized and calling people out of their homes and to the curb.

Although this has been going on for some time, it recently came to wider attention as several videos began appearing online.

The musical garbage truck scheme began in the 1980s when Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration was seeking a novel way to eliminate the vermin and odors that plagued the country's designated outdoor public trash disposal areas. This way, residents are notified to bring their rubbish directly to the trucks and the trash never touches the ground (unlike Mister Softee trucks, which seem to appear out of nowhere on hot summer days, the musical garbage trucks run on a set schedule).

On Monday, a blogger for Mother Nature Network looked into the phenomenon and particularly why Für Elise is the preferred trash collection song: “According to popular myth, Hsu Tse-chiu, former head of the Department of Health, went with the Beethoven classic in the early 1980s after hearing his daughter practice the song on her piano."

Update: Along with the Beethoven favorite, another preferred tune is A Maiden's Prayer, a piano miniature by the 19th-century Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska. You can hear it in the videos below.

Weigh in: Could this work here in New York? If so, what music should the Dept. of Sanitation use?

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Comments [4]

toni tynan from Greenwich, CT

This would be wonderful to hear classical music to awaken you particularly during the summer months when there are those of us who prefer to leave windows open and receive cool breezes and fresh air in...thank you! Toni Tynan, Greenwich, CT

Jan. 12 2012 11:28 AM
David from Flushing

With all the noise that the sanitation trucks make, I think a more powerful Beethoven piece is required. How about the finale of the 1812 Overture with crashing garbage cans instead of cannons?

Jan. 11 2012 11:29 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

Perhaps the DSNY should try playing Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire during pickups, as it may scare away the vermin.

Jan. 11 2012 11:20 AM
a Taipei native

First, it's not Beethoven, but Bądarzewska's A Maiden's Prayer.

But more importantly, I wish U.S. cities can also do this: Garbage doesn't sit on the curb to attract rodents, the city doesn't have to hire as many sanitation workers, and it reinforces the idea that it takes a village to keep itself clean.

Jan. 11 2012 10:01 AM

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