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Draft Trash: Middlebury's Efficient Trash Pick-Up Option

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Patrick Palmer and his draft horses
Photo credit: Archer Newell

Source: Archer Newell, Middlebury College

Look out, there’s a new garbage man in town! Patrick Palmer has been picking up trash in Bristol for 18 years, and he expanded his business into Middlebury last year. However, this is not your average garbage truck operation: Patrick uses a horse-drawn wagon instead.

Draft Horses = eco-friendly garbage collection

Patrick has always loved horses and has spent his career training them. He uses his Percheron draft horses to pull carriages at events and drive floats in parades. Horses need to be very well-trained to be in crowds and traffic with so much commotion. He thought up Draft Trash as a way to train horses to be road-safe, and created a more eco-friendly garbage collection system in the process.

Building Community Through Connection and Clean Up

I got the privilege of riding along with Patrick and his horses, Jake and Minor, on their route one morning. It was easy to see why Patrick says that he loves running Draft Trash. Once a week, he gets to spend the morning outside talking to neighbors and seeing what’s new around town. The crew, which consists of Patrick and his helpers, Lynda and Isaiah, is also able to clean up litter from the roadside as they jump on and off the wagon.

Cutting Carbon and Staying Competitive

In addition to being fun and environmentally-friendly, Draft Trash is also profitable. Patrick is able to use the horses he already owns to collect trash and has used the same wooden cart for 16 years. Large diesel-burning garbage trucks, on the other hand, must be replaced every 10 years and can cost as much as $200,000. In addition to the difference in equipment cost, Patrick saves big on fuel. By his estimation, he saves 11 gallons of fuel each pick-up day. His horse-powered model will be even more competitive as gasoline prices increase in the future.

Interested in taking advantage of Draft Trash in Middlebury? You can purchase a $5 sticker from Otter Creek Bakery and Martin’s Hardware. Place these stickers on your recycling or trash bags and Patrick and his team of horses will come pick them up every other week. Supporting green local businesses is a great way to reduce your own carbon footprint!

Back to the Future...

Draft Trash proves that simpler really can be better. By reverting to a more traditional way of collecting waste, Patrick was able to improve efficiency and create a more cost-effective business model. While not everyone can switch to horse-powered transportation, there still is a lot we can learn from Draft Trash. Patrick found a way to expand his sustainable activities in a creative new way. We can all reexamine our green habits and see how we can build on them. This could include sharing your sustainability goals with your neighbors, or adding a basket to your bike to make it more versatile. Every little bit counts towards building a more energy efficient lifestyle.

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