Eugène Poubelle: Google doodle to honor French lawyer & diplomat on his 190th Birthday

Devdiscourse News Desk | Paris | Updated: 15-04-2021 08:07 IST | Created: 15-04-2021 08:07 IST
Eugène Poubelle: Google doodle to honor French lawyer & diplomat on his 190th Birthday
On March 7, 1884, Eugène Poubelle decreed that owners of buildings must provide their residents with three covered containers of 40 to 120 liters to hold household refuse. Image Credit: Wikimedia

Happy Birthday Eugène Poubelle!

Google shares a doodle commemorating renowned French lawyer, administrator, and diplomat Eugène Poubelle on his 190th birthday. Eugène Poubelle (also known as Eugène-René Poubelle) introduced waste containers to Paris and made their use compulsory in the late 19th century.

Never afraid to get his hands dirty, Poubelle is forever immortalized in the French word for the trash can: la poubelle.

Eugène Poubelle was born to a bourgeois family in Caen. He studied to become a lawyer and earned a law degree. Then he obtained a Ph.D. degree and began his career as a professor before transitioning into public service.

Eugène Poubelle taught at universities in Caen, Grenoble and Toulouse before being made préfet, or government representative and regional administrator, in the Charente in April 1871. He then successively became préfet for Isère, Corsica, Doubs, Bouches-du-Rhône and finally, from 1883 to 1896, for the Seine département. Then he determined that Paris needed to clean up its act.

On March 7, 1884, Eugène Poubelle decreed that owners of buildings must provide their residents with three covered containers of 40 to 120 liters to hold household refuse. The refuse was to be sorted into compostable items, paper and cloth, and crockery and shells.

The population of Paris, close to two million, needed a system to empty the containers regularly. Parisians began to name their boxes after Eugène Poubelle, a habit encouraged by the newspaper Le Figaro, which called them Boîtes Poubelle. The boxes met resistance, owners of buildings resenting the cost of providing and supervising the bins, and traditional rag-and-bone men, the chiffonniers, seeing a threat to their living.

The boxes deteriorated but the principles of what Eugène Poubelle established survived. But not until the end of the Second World War did dustbins and their collection by municipalities become common. In 1890, la Poubelle was officially introduced into the French dictionary as the term for "garbage can."

But Eugène Poubelle didn't stop there. Following a severe cholera outbreak in 1892, he also required all buildings to be connected directly to the city's sewers, another huge step in the name of urban hygiene. Poubelle's mandates also catalyzed the development of household waste removal vehicles, early versions of which came in the form of horse-drawn carriages.

With the advent of the first automobiles, these prototypical garbage trucks evolved into motorized vehicles in 1897; by the dawn of the 20th-century, this sanitation technology cleared the path for garbage collection to become commonplace not just in French urban centers but nationwide.

Thank you, Eugène Poubelle, for refusing to let your visionary ideas be thrown out!

Also Read: Google Doodle honors Oliver De Coque on his 74th Birthday


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