Parisian Garbage from 1789-1900
In the 17th and 18th century, squatters moved into the old dumpsites
outside of the fortification, as a result of the new Capiatlist social contract.
They were often forced to move to the urban area after being displaced
from the countryside. Residents of these bidonvilles, or shanty towns,
were called zoniers, and frequently made a living from scavenging rags
and metal objects. Many of these bidonvilles were not torn down until
Eugene Atget bidonvilles on the Boulevard Massena
on the periphery the 13th Arrondissement @ 1900
In 1834, Leroux, a socialist, develops the "circulus", the theory
replenishing the earth in a cycle, based on experiments with poudrette.
Influenced by Leroux, Karl Marx in Das Kapital states that the waste of
soil nutrients found in sewerage was characteristic of capitalism.
Montfaucon closed in 1850. It's potent symbolism of the immorality of
society was thought to incite barbaric and retaliatory behavior. It was
feared as a source of contagious diseases. The reform of Montfaucon--as
social redemption--was directed by the architect Pierre Girraud.
Montfaucon was to become an industrial park, surrounded by a
resplendant tree-filled park for the workers to get some fresh air.
Parc de La Villette, in the 19th Arrondissement by F. Krupa
The building in the background is the new Science and Technology Center
with the IMAX Geode, the Canal de L'Ourcq (still used to transport waste),
and a red "folly" by Bernard Tschumi in the foreground.
The parc is a 1980's urban renewal effort.
The sewage dump moved to Bondy, much farther north of the city. This
operation continued until the 1870s, when lease negotiation faltered and
Bondy reached capacity. The transport of human sewage required
cesspool cleaners to unload their barrels at La Villete, where liquid were
up by pipeline and solids by boat. Of the 100,000 cubic meters of solid
one/third decomposed, and one/third simply washed into the Seine.
Suburban dumpsites developed making lucrative deals with the city.
Twenty-four suburban dumpsites existed in 1880 -- many producing
ammonium sulfate, whose smell reaches all parts of Paris. The smell was
blamed on sewers, not the real culprits. La Villete also became
the site for the new meat market and slaughterhouses that replaced
Les Halles in central Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The carcasses were then transported by canal to the nearby dump.
Photo of the Halles aux Boeufs, 1867, now the Grande Halle of
Parc de la Villette, 1990. F. Krupa
In the 1860s, horse drawn tipcarts began collecting garbage from
sidewalks. Until the 1870s, all the household garbage was dumped into
the street between eight and nine p.m. and picked up the following
morning. A regulation passed in 1870 stipulated that garbage be put out
the morning instead50, much to the relief of anyone outdoor past eight.
Eugene Poubelle became Prefect of the Seine in 1884 and created the final
laws governing the garbage collection and street cleaning, building on
the earlier regulations about sweeping in front of the building and not
throwing anything out the window. Poubelle took these rules much
further. He defined the garbage can as having a maximum of 120 liters
and the time of passage of the tipcarts (both summer and winter). Rules
stipulated that lids must be removed before placing the garbage can on the
sidewalk, that dumping rubble, industrial and garden waste was illegal,
that glass required separate containers, that ragpickers must sort the
garbage on the canvas and not on the ground, and that the cans must be
cleaned regularly to avoid odors. Poubelle organized garbage collection
this manner to allow for the household waste to be composted at Saint
Ouen. The advent of plastics in the 20th century waste stream put a halt
to this practice as well. Angry landlords retaliated by giving his name
to the garbage can.
Breaking the "circulus" was the most regrettable loss that the
developments have lead to. By not utilizing the waste that society produces
as fertilizer, the soil gets depleted and must be fertilized by other means.
The unused refuse was essentially wasted, often in landfills. Many large
cities have serious problems in dealing with the increase in population,
garbage and sewage. Toxic industrial chemicals and plastics, especially
packaging, have increased the complexity of these problems, but a serious
reexamination in the way society deals, or rather ignores, its refuse
problems is still warranted.