The Beginning of Garbage Collection

Obviously garbage collection began with the horse and wagon which theoretically could have gone back to the invention of the wheel or similar ancient times.  However regular door to door garbage collection as we know it, didn't become common place until the 1800s.  In medieval times, people often dumped it in the gutter for eventually removal by sanitation workers armed with shovels, brooms and a horse drawn wagon.  Usually it sat a while before getting picked up, leading to very unsanitary conditions, attracting all manner of disease, rodents and insects.  Not to mention some pretty foul odors on a hot summer's day!  These unsanitary conditions were responsible for spreading much of the Plague.  It became obvious that trash should be picked up in recepticles on a regular schedule.  That way, nothing would be left out in the street to rot.  Another solution was for everybody to burn as much garbage as they could as everybody had a stove in those days.  Ash removal therefore was a common service.  Once people started heating their homes by other means than a wood or coal stove, burning garbage became less practical, and therefore proper garbage removal became more crucial.

The Dump

In a small community, people would bring their trash to a central location, without needing the services of collection.  However this became impractical for any municipality as populations grew.  So, a garbage dump was set up, usually far away enough from people's residences.  At this site, it was common to burn much of the refuse to reduce the volume and kill off any disease that could be spread by a pile of rotting organic matter.  Today we have incinerators that do this job.  Quick burial of the refuse is another solution, which is the most common practise in North America.  In countries where land is at a premium such as Japan, incinerator is the favored solution.  In some cases in earlier times, garbage was simply dumped into the river, lake or sea, often with serious environmental consequences.

Up to the late 1960s, trucks would simply go a dump somewhere on the outskirts of town or city.  However, for very large cities, with much larger waste problems, a suitable dump usually had to be built quite far from the city.  Since it would be inefficient for trucks to have to travel that great distance, several transfer stations are scattered around the city, where trucks would dump their loads.  The refuse would then be hauled off in large transport trucks to a dump (or incinerator) which can be hundreds of miles away.  Because of the short distances to transfer stations, trucks can resume their collection sooner.

Going to the Dump vs. a Transfer Station

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Page created Apr 19, 2003