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Eugène-René Poubelle

Eugène Poubelle
Born 15 April 1831(1831-04-15)
Caen, France
Died July 15, 1907 (aged 76)
Resting place Herminis cemetery, Carcassonne
Residence Paris
Nationality French
Occupation Lawyer, University lecturer, Préfet (President's Representative), Regional Administrator
Known for Introducing 'trash cans' / 'La Poubelle' to France

Eugène-René Poubelle (born Caen, France, 15 April 1831, died Paris 16 July 1907)[1] was the man who introduced the dustbin, or trash can, to Paris[2] and after whom the French dustbin (la poubelle) is now named. He was a lawyer, administrator and diplomat who as préfet of the Seine region of France introduced hygiene measures in Paris to which a newspaper gave his name.



Eugène Poubelle was born to a bourgeois family in Caen. He studied to become a lawyer and obtained a doctorate.[3] He taught at universities in Caen, Grenoble and Toulouse before being made préfet, or president's representative and regional administrator, in the Charente in April 1871.[3] He became successively préfet in Isère, Corsica, Doubs, Bouches-du-Rhône and finally, from 1883 to 1896, in the Seine département.

Becoming préfet of the Seine was significant because more local administration, at town halls, had been largely removed in Paris. On 7 March 1884 Poubelle decreed that owners of buildings must provide those who lived there with three covered containers of 40 to 120 litres to hold household refuse. It was to be sorted into perishable items, paper and cloth, crockery and shells.[2][4]

The population of Paris, close to two millions, needed a system to empty the containers regularly. Parisians began to name their boxes after Poubelle, a habit encouraged by the newspaper Le Monde, which called them Boîtes Poubelle.[2] But the boxes met resistance, owners of buildings resenting the cost of providing and supervising the bins and traditional rag-and-bone men, the chiffoniers, seeing a threat to their living. The boxes deteriorated but the principles of what Poubelle established survived. But not until the end of the Second World War did dustbins and their collection by municipalities become common.[4] By then poubelle as a noun had been established by a supplement of the Grand Dictionnaire Universel du 19ème Siècle in 1890.

Eugène Poubelle also campaigned successfully for direct drainage. A resurgence of cholera in 1892 led to his decreeing in 1894 that buildings were to be connected direct to the sewers at the expense of the building's owner. [2]

Later career

Poubelle became ambassador to the Vatican in 1896 and to the Roman court in 1898. He was consul general of the canton of Saissac in the Aude from 1898 to 1904, and president of the Société Centrale d'Agriculture de l'Aude, where he defended the interests of wine in the Midi.

Death and commemoration

Poubelle died in Paris on 16 July 1907 and is buried in the Herminis cemetery near Carcassonne. His bust is displayed outside the city's Musée des Beaux-Arts.[5] A street in the 16th arrondissement is named after him, between the avenue de Versailles and the quai Louis-Blériot. It has only one house, number 2.

See also


  1. ^ Naissance-Mort Eugène Poubelle
  2. ^ a b c d Le Monde, Économie, 1 December 2009, p2
  3. ^ a b "Le préfet Poubelle est un Caennais", Caen Magazine, Mairie de Caen, November-December 2001
  4. ^ a b Planete echo - Eugene Poubelle
  5. ^ Bonnet, Jean-Louis (2005), Carcassonne d'hier à aujourd'hui, La Tour Gile, France

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