Trash Removal Would Have Prevented the Bubonic Plague

A Brief History of Trash Removal Part I

Once a week, a garbage truck bundles down your street, and a garbage collector jumps off his perch and dumps your trash into the grinding mouth of his truck. Trash removal has become such a normal and regular occurrence that we rarely stop to think about it. But trash removal and garbage collection are parts of a system integral to our health and well-being.

The world would look vastly different without trash removal systems like the waste management in Springfield, MO, that Automated Waste Services provides. The world didn’t always have these garbage collection systems in place. These systems have evolved over time to become what they have and to offer a clean and healthy atmosphere in all modern cities.

Earliest Forms of Trash Removal

Archaeologists have found evidence that the earliest form of trash removal, dating to the years prior to 2000 BCE, involved little more than sweeping trash to the side. Trash consisted of wood, ash, animal waste, human waste, and vegetable waste. Households typically moved the trash from their homes into the surrounding landscape, or they simply left the waste and spread fresh clay over the littered floors. Cities often elevated over the years as people chose to build upon the waste rather than remove it.

A System Slowly Develops

Archaeologists have found signs of the earliest large-scale dumpsites on Crete. Sometime around 1500 BCE, the citizens of Knossos began to place trash in large pits that they covered with earth. The Athenians followed the Cretan example a thousand years later when laws mandated citizens remove waste at least a mile from the city. The same laws banned Athenians from dumping trash in the streets.

During the same time period as the Athenians, the Israelites developed a dump site outside of Jerusalem called Sheol. The Bible and the Torah reference this trash site in conjunction with hell. Not soon after, the Romans developed a more modern looking trash removal system. In 200 CE, garbage collectors, divided into teams of two, walked the streets with a wagon. They removed waste from the streets and threw it in the wagon.

The Threat of Garbage

Everyone has heard of the Black Death or the Bubonic Plague, but did you know that a proper trash removal service could have prevented the death of an estimated one-third of the European population? As cities grew, garbage piled up. The garbage made a perfect home for rats and other pests that carried diseases.

Contaminated Water

The plague swept through Europe in the 1340s and 1350s. In 1354, King Edward ordered that teams of men, known as rakers, pick up all trash from the streets and remove it from the city each week. These early garbage men used carts for trash removal. They often went no further than the nearest river, dumping the waste into the water supply. In 1388, the British Parliament put a stop to the dumping of trash in public ditches and waters.

Trash War

As the British struggled to deal with the trash in their streets, the French faced a trash problem of a different nature. Accounts from the early 1400s describe trash piles so high outside the city, soldiers climbed it to get over city walls.

Modern Trash Removal

Follow the development of sanitation and garbage collection into the modern era on our next blog. If, in the meantime, you need a company to provide your home or business with quality waste management in Springfield, MO, look no further than Automated Waste Services.

Much of this information is provided by the National Waste & Recycling Association.