taking out the trash (simply taiwan 4)

i hate trash

There are very few things I don't like about Taiwan.  But, I seriously hate tossing the trash in Taiwan (and I consider hate a very strong word, so I'm not using it lightly here).

At different times though out the day a trash truck will drive through every neighborhood.  Each trash truck announces their presence by playing an electronic version of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise," which to the unknowing American sounds like an ice cream truck.

Each neighborhood/city is a little different, but each has their own trash truck traditions. 

At my old house, people from two apartment complexes all gathered along the alley in front of the buildings, the trash truck stopped and literally about 100 people tossed trash into the back in about 5-10 minutes each night.  We all knew that the truck would arrive at about 7:30, so at about 7:20ish people started heading downstairs and gathering out front to wait.  I, however, lived on the 2nd floor near the front entrance, so I would wait till I heard the tinny melody to grab my trash and head out the door. 

The nice thing about that neighborhood was that about 30 minutes later another truck drove down a side street, so if I missed the 7:30 trash truck, I could meet the 8:00 trash truck. Now, the 8:00 trash truck didn't stand still.  People would stand outside their "townhouse-like" homes with their trash, and as the truck slowly drove by they would toss in their trash.

This phenomenon is something that can't be captured by words and photos alone, a video is necessary to help you experience this.  So, without further adieu, here is a trash truck I got stuck behind while on my moped one night.

I always wondered what in the world I would do if I always worked nights and could never be home to take out the trash between 7:30 and 8:00.  In some neighborhoods, the trash truck comes during the day . . . and I do wonder what people who don't work from home do about their garbage.  Hmmm . . .

Ok, now let me just take a second to further justify my hatred for tossing trash.  It is not just that I have to be responsible for taking out my trash and tossing it myself.  That's ok.  But is the fear that I've done something wrong and will have to dig in the trash to undo my mistake.  You see, they have strict mandatory recycling polices here.  And, if you throw out something that should be recycled, the garbage guys (aka trash nazis) will tear open your bag, and make you take care of it the right way. 

Once, right after my neighborhood started to recycle food scraps, I included egg shells in my food waste pile.  I thought egg shells were supposed to be good for compost piles.  Except, I later learned food scraps collected on the back of the trash trucks in blue barrels are not for composting but for feeding pigs.  So, when the trash nazi saw my egg shells in the blue barrel, he made me dig through the pile of food scraps to remove them.  All the while, people were tossing their garbage bags over my shoulder as I diligently stuck my hand into that disgusting mess of pig slop and dug out all the egg shells big enough to see with a naked eye.  YUCK!

Recycling trucks tag along behind trash trucks on certain days of the week--playing a different song (yes, at the same time).  But, that's a story for another day.

For now, here are four more Taiwanese trash truck videos I found online.  Enjoy!!!

Here is a link to a one minute video that is pretty good but can't be embedded.


  1. Thank you for posting such great info about Taiwan. I have a new respect for our trash service!

  2. Very interesting and different. I suppose playing a little music is betting than honking through the neighborhood.

  3. Amanda, I LOVE this series you are doing!!

  4. That is one part that I do not miss. I hated sorting food waste and could never understand what pigs eat and what was compost. Thanks for the memory.

  5. Wow this reminded me of Peru. :-) We didn't have the trash trucks that made music though. They rang a triangle when they were coming by. People would bring out the trash because otherwise people would steal the trash cans! It wasn't nearly as complicated though as it seems like Taiwan is! I think I'd be scared to throw anything away!

  6. Ugh. No wonder you hate it. I watched 2 of the videos. That music!!! OH! How terrible!!
    This post is sure to elicit a lot of sympathy. I feel it for you. Mean trash nazis!!

  7. Please show them how to do it the better way. Govt. listens to foreigners here!!

  8. But you know . . . even though I hate it, I think it works well. I meant no critique of the system.
    When you have thousands of people living in a very small area, they are going to create a LOT of trash that has to be dealt with in a very efficient way . . . this way may be annoying and cause noise pollution, but it keeps the streets clean and free of garbage! :)

  9. wonderful series on TAIWAN! i actually find the whole song/truck/way of trash collecting quite amusing (but obviously not annoyed b/c as a visitor, i didn't have to deal with it first hand everyday). Your post got me laughing HARD as it brought back so many memories of Taiwan! =) Thanks Amanda! I share your post with a bunch of friends and I'll share what they think about "Trash Time in Taiwan" when they respond. That song is forever in my head... but i actually kind of like it. =P So sorry about the egg shell digging out of the trash thing... whoa! they're serious (and stern)!

  10. WOW! How different! Seems like in some ways it might be better, definitely and easier job for the trash people. Like you say, though, what do you do if you're not home at the time they come through? Hmmm. It is rather amusing that they play happy cheery music, music that as an American sounds like an ice cream truck. :P
    Plus, how neat that you have a recycling truck coming right to you? I'm trying to find a place to take my recyclables and I have no idea. See? There's a silver lining to everything. ;)
    Still...I know me. And I know that I'd probably gripe, too. It's so much more "convenient" to just toss it in the dumpster whenever I want.

  11. Our trash truck in Kaohsiung has a different melody but it has been the same everyday for the last 13 years! When we arrived in Kaohsiung, in 1995 all the trash was piled up in the streets. The piles started to form in the afternoon and the garbage truck would arrive at 11 at night. You can imagine what happened on windy days or with a lot of stray dogs around...

  12. I just stumbled upon your site and am crackig up! I am also in Taiwan right now, Tainan to be exact. This post cracked me up because we thought it was an ice cream truck the first week we were here. I can't wait to read more about your missionary work here.


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