I remember being a little kid and running out the door of my house bare-foot with $2 in change in my hand to catch the ice cream truck before he drove off. I find my self as an adult exhibiting similar behavior, but instead of $2 I have a bag of trash, and instead of an ice cream truck it’s a trash truck.
Taiwanese garbage pick up is an experience. In our neighborhood it comes at about six at night and I know when it’s coming because I can hear it, much like the ice cream truck. However, the tune is of a bit more highbrow set than the classic ice cream truck tune, The Entertainer (though I do love Scott Joplin). It’s a piece by Polish composer, Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska called “The Maidens Prayer.”
When you hear Bądarzewska-Baranowska poppin you best get hoppin.
This system was established due to population growth in Taipei, and the over-flow of trash in street side receptacles. This daily pick up on every block has overwhelmingly dealt with the issue of pest infestation and general stench in Taiwan. Along with daily trash pick up, there is also compost and recycling collection on a near daily basis. In Taipei there are government issued bags you need to buy (this is how they pay for trash collection), but in other cities you are free to use any bag you want.
With this effort, the Taiwanese government has been able to make Taiwan one of the cleanest countries I have ever been to. This isn’t to say that there isn’t trash around, or that every street and waterway is a pristine picture of perfection, though this system seems to be improving the aesthetic and the environment of the country. As far as cities go, I can safely say that New York, San Francisco, and Boston are all dirtier than Taipei, and Paris, London, and Rome could use a few of these musical trucks too.
I don’t know what it is, but chasing after ice cream barefoot in your pajamas feels so much less silly than running down the road in that same outfit trying to slam dunk a bag of stinking trash. Oh well at least I get a dose of culture. Thanks Tekla, for the garbage song.