It all started with a Monsieur Louis Garchey, a Frenchman, who invented the eponymous garchey system just before the First World War.
When the Barbican was built, there were garchey systems in England: in estates in Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds and London. Now there are just two others in England – both in London – one in Enfield and the other at Spa Green Estate, Islington (or there were last time I checked, about a decade ago).
The original manufacturer was Matthew Hall Ltd. The Barbican gave the maintenance contract to Linbrock and Sons who still have it. They make any parts that are needed. Some are made here in the Barbican.
Colin Iffland is the Barbican Estate Office’s expert. He began work here when the Barbican was just being built.
When the estate was constructed, they assumed most household rubbish would go down the garchey and physical collections would be limited to one collection a week. In the early years, he had a team of 14 staff handling 24 tonnes of rubbish every week. Now it’s down to 2 tonnes every three weeks and Colin manages with just 2 staff.
This reduction is not merely down to flat owners removing their garcheys, although that is a major contributor. (600 garcheys hade been removed in 2004, leaving over 1,400 still in operation then.) It is also down to changes in consumer packaging. The system was designed to remove tins and bottles, not plastic and polystyrene.
All is not lost. Taiwan were looking at the garchey system for a new city they are building and maybe the idea will catch on again.