Refuse disposal

The Barbican Committee studied the problem of disposal. They set out three particular aspirations. (1) They wanted to provide a high standard of accommodation. (2) They wanted rubbish to be disposed of without inconveniencing the tenants and without refuse having to be carried in public spaces. (3) They wanted to reduce the workload of porters to the minimum. Very optimistic ambitions. Unfortunately their ambitions like the garbage had to come down to earth.

As a result of their detailed investigations, they came up with four possible solutions for consideration.


The first solution considered was for each flat to have a dustbins. They concluded that “the labour involved in emptying dustbins for each dwelling would be excessive“. (Remember this was in the days of huge metal dustbins .) They also reported that it would be “necessary to provide space for the bins and separate lifts to carry the bins to the ground floor“.

In essence however this is the method for removing refuse that we have now got. There are refuse bags instead of metal dustbins, and there are no separate lifts. But every day, porters do have to come round to each flat and collect the rubbish. So the aim of reducing the labour of porters to the minimum was not achieved.

Sinkhole pulverisers

The second alternative was ‘sinkhole pulverisers’. Sinkhole pulverisers were grinders driven by an electric motor which would be connected to the sink waste and could be used for disposing of animal and vegetable kitchen waste. But that would have meant food waste ending up in the drains. As the Barbican Committee reported: “Sinkhole pulverisers are expensive, unreliable, and generally not welcomed by drainage authorities“.

Refuse chutes.

This solution would have involved each flat having a refuse chute which would discharge at basement level into cubicles containing large wheeled containers, which could be pulled out when full, and exchanged with a new empty one. Essentially, this would mean dropping stuff down chutes much like the laundry chutes so loved in comedy films set in hotels, or the one in the Death Star in Star Wars.

One problem with this was obviously hygiene. ‘Stuff’ would inevitably stick to the chute walls. So the solution proposed was that all chutes should be placed out on the balconies. Summer evenings were going to be lovely!

This solution to the rubbish problem would also have created major problems for the construction of the estate because it was estimated that there would have to be about one hundred chutes into which all other chutes would converge at basement level, with all those wheeled containers having to be watched and changed. So this solution was understandably dropped.

The Garchey system

The solution, they eventually went for was “the Garchey system of domestic refuse disposal“.


They reported that the got she system had originated in France before the Second World War and had been installed in the development of 996 flats in Sheffield and 448 flats in Leeds. They reported that “the got she system is the most complete system of refuse disposal.”


It was, in a way, a compromise between sinkhole rises and reference shoots. The system is connected to sink units and waste pipes so that. But instead of everything being ground up, it was simply passed straight through the system. Even bottles and cans and other objects could be put in it, which was not the case with some pulp sinkhole rises. The sink outlets would be connected into 8 inch diameter cast iron pipes which would run vertically down the building and discharge into collection chambers, in which surplus water would drain away straight into the main drainage system, leaving the soggy remains.


Ideally, what was meant to happen next, was as follows. The sink outlets. There would be a central plant room on the estate, which would contain receiver tanks and vac vacuum pumps. The vacuum pumps would “exhaust” the refuse from the collection chambers and discharge it into the receiver tanks. They estimated this would be carried out once a week. The ref use in the receiver tanks would then be dried in a hydro extractor and burnt in an incinerator. The ash would then be removed by normal refuge disposal trucks. They calculated that the final ash to be removed after incineration would weigh about 1/5 of the dry refuse weight and 1/8 of the damp refuse weight.


The advantage of the got she system over the refuge should system was that the got she system could be in a self-contained system not needing lots of refuge shoots and containers to be manhandled.


One problem with this scheme was that the city was a smokeless zone and so it was gonna be a problem to incinerate the waste. One solution they considered was to put the central disposal plant under one of the tower blocks and then have a flue taking the smoke up to the very highest level so that there will be no likelihood of unpleasant fumes. But the corporation was keen to avoid any smoke being produced and so they considered other finals disposal methods. One method was for the wet refuge to be taken away by tanker lorries to other treatment points sites. All the refugees could be pumped there in new pipelines. There are – and this is the solution they adopted – the wet refuge could be passed through the hydro extractor is to remove most of the letter and then the damp refuse which remained could be loaded into closed vehicles and transported to a refuge disposal depot elsewhere.


They ended their report with what seemed like a mere afterthought – that the disposal of the disposal of any large dry refuse could be in a room provided at basement and ground floor level and in each block. We haven’t ended up with quite that, but we do have the system of taking large dry refuse to collection points.


Newspapers were anticipated to be particular problem. The committee reported: “many people are reluctant to tear up newspapers for disposal by the got she system and this room could be used to store the papers until they are removed under normal refuge arrangements”. I don’t know what’s most bizarre: the idea of people standing over there sink dutifully tearing up the daily newspaper, or the idea of a room on the ground floor any of the buildings being given over to storing newspapers and mattresses.