Image credit: SITA
There's a lot to be said for horses as a greener form of transportation. In many ways, they are the ultimate use of biofuels—they run on grass, and their output is a biodegradable fertilizer. In fact, TreeHugger has been asked before whether we should start using horses instead of tractors again, and we have indeed seen some farmers taking up horse-drawn ploughs and even embracing mule-power in the face of rising gas prices. Now some towns in France are also rediscovering horses, only these guys are using them to transport their recycling. According to The Guardian, over 60 French towns are now collecting recycling using horse-drawn buggies. The impetus was not, as some might think, nostalgia—but rather a strong sense that horses really are the appropriate form of power for the job. As Jean Baptiste, mayor of medieval Peyrestortes, told the Guardian, the horses are also of economic benefit in tough times:
"You can't turn a waste collection vehicle around here. We used to block streets to traffic and keep waste in open skips." He sold off a dustbin lorry and acquired two Breton carthorses instead. Asked whether the changes are saving money, he says: "It's too early. But money isn't the only reason. The exhaust smells have gone, the noise has gone, and instead we have the clip-clop of horses' hooves."
It's not been an easy ride, however, for many services. In fact, many of the horse-drawn collections that have been introduced have failed after only a few short months. According to Sita, one of France's biggest waste management firms, which pioneered the concept, the reason for failure is often a combination of inadequate training, or unsuitable horses or terrain. Nevertheless, the fact that collections are succeeding in many towns is proof positive that sometimes the low-tech solutions really are the best.