French Towns Use Horse-Drawn Carts to Collect Recycling

Published on May 14, 2014
  • A work horse helping out

    A work horse helping out

    © Frédérique Panassac Flickr CC BY SA

French Towns Use Horse-Drawn Carts to Collect Recycling Calvados fr

Recycling in France is going even greener. Over 250 communes have switched to using horse-drawn carts for their recycling and trash collection in lieu of gas-consuming garbage trucks. 

These efforts not only add character to what is often seen as a thankless job, but they link local equestrian heritage with sustainable development, at a lower cost than more “modern” methods. 

Horses have been working animals for almost as long as men have been farming, and in France, draft horses, with their impressive size (they can weigh over a ton) and strength, were specifically bred for this reason. With the arrival of the tractor, however, came the decline of the working horse, and now there are only nine breeds left, each corresponding to a specific area in France: the Ardennes horse, the Auxois, the Boulonnais, the Breton, the Norman Cob, the Comtois, the Percheron, the Poitevin and the Trait du Nord.

In the early 2000s, a few communes adopted the “new” horse-powered method of waste collection and in 2008, SITA, (a recycling and resource management company) teamed up with the National Studs and the French Horse and Riding Institute in order to expand its program. 

Now, they are using horse-drawn carts in both city centers and tourist zones, and over 70 communes have benefited from the partnership. In Trouville-sur-mer (Calvados), the horse-drawn carts collect almost 150 tons of glass and cardboard per year, at a cost of 9,400€ instead of what would have been 22,800€ for an eco-friendly truck, according to SITA.

In Beauvais (Oise), over two tons of glass are collected each week and other “pioneer” communes include St. Pierre-sur-Dives (Calvados), Etretat (Seine-Maritime), and Verdun (Meuse). Every city that chose to participate has seen a 15%-17% growth in the amount of recycling collected. Could it be that there is just something about these majestic animals that inspires more eco-friendly actions? 

Of course, in all of this, care has been taken to ensure that the horses are treated well. The collection routes are overseen and approved by experts from the National Studs. The horses spend the morning walking their route for no more than three hours, after which they are unharnessed, fed and watered before making the return journey to the equestrian center. 

This solution helps to ensure that visitors will continue to be able to enjoy both the natural and the equestrian heritage of these regions for years to come. 

Point of interest