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Trashy Talk Just Got Classier: The New Bagatelle Poubelle


 The old PoubelleThe old PoubelleThe New PoubelleThe New PoubelleM. Eugene PoubelleM. Eugene PoubelleParis' new recycling binParis’ new recycling bin

The trash in Paris just got classier, not trashier. Have you noticed how the green ringed trash receptacles all over town are getting replaced by the prettiest “poubelles” made of gray steel?

The word “poubelle” (meaning trash can) comes from the man who invented the ‘gadget’ — Eugne Poubelle. I wonder what he would think about the new bins all over Paris?

He was a bourgeois lawyer, administrator and diplomat from Caen who was the “préfet” of the Seine region of France devoted to introducing methods of hygene at the end of the 19th-century. On March 7, 1884, Poubelle decreed that owners of buildings must provide three covered containers up to 120 liters to hold household garbage…to be sorted into perishable items, paper and cloth, crockery and shells. The newspaper, Le Figaro, is responsible for having coined the new containers “Bo”tes Poubelle.” As with any change, there was resistance at first to the expense and the threat to the rag-pickers (“chiffoniers”). By 1890, “poubelle” had become a noun in the Universal Dictionary of the 19th-century and “le monsieur” became a household word.

Monsieur Poubelle was also responsible for connecting the buildings directly to sewers at the building’s expense in 1894. I can guess they weren’t happy with that either, at the time!…But I’ll bet life would be a lot different without them!

As you read this, 10,000 modern gray steel baskets are being installed on all the arrondissements of Paris replacing the existing green ringed receptacles to be fully in place by this March. The plan is to have 30,000 when all is said and done, costing 2 million euros to the city.

The new model has been named the “Bagatelle,” designed by an architectural firm, Wilmotte, and manufactured by a company called Seri. The idea was to create “street furniture” more in-tune with the colors of the city — gray, gray, gray. (In case you haven’t noticed, the city is getting grayer by the moment. Even the large cylindrical glass recycling receptacles on the streets are going from green to gray.)

The new Bagatelles are tough — tough enough to withstand an explosion and tough enough for lit cigarette butts, as it’s equipped with a fire extinguisher! If you throw your butt (or trash) on the ground, you could be fined 35 euro, although I’d be shocked if a Paris “flic” (cop) would actually issue a ticket.

And guess what? The trash bag can be changed in less than 13 seconds. Now, that’s classy!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group LLCAdrian Leeds

Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

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