Giant vacs to suck up Parisian waste

Paris is set to become the latest city to install a network of underground tubes to suck up the waste from homes, eliminating the need for refuse collection vehicles.

The innovative solution to waste management will serve 650 homes in the French capital and will allow bags of rubbish from the eco-friendly housing development to be dropped into a hatch leading to giant underground vacuum tubes which will literally suck the refuse to a sorting station.

Similar systems have already been installed out in cities all over the world, from Sweden to Spain, Hong Kong to New York and in the UK there are plans to use the technology in the redevelopment surrounding Wembley Stadium and perhaps for the 2012 Olympics.

Some of the networks have tens of miles of tubes transporting waste from where it is produced to nearby sorting stations.

Waste is simply deposited in inlets which, at a glance, could be mistaken for traditional high street litter bins – or Daleks – before being ferried away for disposal.

In some cases multiple tubes are connected to inlets to allow for sorting into different waste streams at the collection point.

The pneumatic waste handling systems, designed by Swedish company Envac, may use substantial amounts of energy to pipe away refuse, but on balance make significant environmental savings by eliminating the need for waste disposal vehicles.

The new scheme in the Parisian borough of Narbonne will compost biodegradeable waste and use the gas to fuel the vacuum cleaner, making up any shortfall in energy with a small photovoltaic array.

While there was an extra initial cost of 2,000 to 3,000 Euros per home to install the network of tubes and auxiliary equipment, the scheme is expected to pay for itself in the long term and eventually make a saving.

Reasons for installing the automated networks vary from site to site, from a desire to have an integrated waste collection system from the outset to overcoming particular environmental problems in a specific locale.

In the case of Narbonne, the narrow maze of streets, many of which date back to the Roman Empire of the Dark Ages, made manoeuvring waste collection vehicles difficult and its picturesque nature also made it desirable to keep bins bags off the streets where possible.

Sam Bond

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