Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ alerts Taiwanese residents to take out their trash

14 February 2022, 12:23

Classical music cues cleaning in Taiwan
Classical music cues cleaning in Taiwan. Picture: Getty

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Classical music cues cleaning time in Taiwan.

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Places you may expect to hear classical music could include concert halls, ballrooms, and fancy restaurants.

But on the streets of Taiwan, the general public listen out for one of Beethoven’s most famous tunes to know when to take their rubbish out.

Waste collection trucks in Taiwan play out either Beethoven’s Für Elise or 19th-century Polish composer, Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska’s Maiden's Prayer, to alert residents to bring their rubbish out to the canary yellow-coloured vehicles.

Taiwan was once nicknamed “garbage island”, but now the country is a largely litter-free society thanks to a decades-old waste management policy that insists people hand-deliver their rubbish to collection trucks.

Why classical music was chosen to be the collection calls remains unknown. There are some stories suggesting that a health official overheard his daughter playing Für Elise on the piano, while others suggest that it’s as simple as the trucks came preprogrammed with the tunes.

Read more: Donkeys are played Beethoven, after day job cleaning up a small Turkish town

Taiwan garbage truck, to the tune of Beethoven's Fur Elise.

The singing trucks were first introduced in 1997, and while some residents complain that the music is too loud, others enjoy the community aspect the trucks encourage.

There are even stories of some couples who met while waiting for the trash trucks to arrive.

Tales of foreigners visiting the country and running out to greet the tuneful trucks thinking they were ice cream vans, are also common place.

While not everyone accepts these roaming virtuosos, their 8-bit-esque midi music is a solid staple of Taiwan’s soundscape.