Taiwan’s Musical Garbage Trucks

Taiwan is a small and densely populated island. Many years ago, their waste disposal system was faced with a huge issue – the public garbage collection spots were overflowing, smelly and infested with rats and insects. The Taiwanese government rose to the occasion, coming up with a unique solution – musical garbage trucks.

Instead of having people dump their household waste at designated spots, a policy was created so garbage never touched the ground. In the new system, garbage trucks would pass through every street and people had to bring out their trash bags personally, to dump into the trucks. How would they know when the trucks arrived? Through music of course. For several years, the trucks have played the tune of “Für Elise” by Beethoven and “A Maiden’s Prayer” by Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska. The sound of these tunes had city-dwellers emerge from their homes almost every night, with blue plastic bags filled with trash and another bag of recyclable waste, to dump into the truck.

Photo © Amanda Marsh

There are several ways the authorities could have alerted residents about the arrival of the garbage truck. A simple honk could have done it. Why choose elegant and popular classical tunes? The real reason to this remains a mystery. A myth does exist, however. It is said that “Für Elise” was chosen in the early eighties by the late Hsu Tse-chiu, who was the director of the Department of Health at the time. When he heard his daughter practicing the tune on her piano, he decided that the easily recognizable melody was perfect for the job.


In some parts of Taiwan, the music is switched on certain occasions. Christmas songs are played during the festival, and traditional Chinese songs during the Chinese New Year. Visitors to the country who have witnessed the rare event of neighbors and communities gathering every evening to dispose of trash, say that it is a wonderful sight, and “one of Taiwan’s liveliest communal rites.”

I wonder if they have musical ice cream trucks, too? That would be kind of confusing…

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