Horse-Drawn Scavenging Problems in Sofia, Bulgaria

For most people living in the 21st century, seeing a horse-propelled vehicle moving in urban traffic would be an unusual sight. Not so for the citizens of Sofia. A large amount of the underclass, most of whom are of Roma ethnicity, still employ carriages to move around the town, usually for collecting scrap from dumpsters in the capital city of Bulgaria. The government has yet another push to remove the practice, though it’s doubtful whether this new attempt won’t be as half-hearted as the previous ones. The funny part is that the horse-drawn garbagemen are still better at recycling than the local government.

25% of Sofia’s garbage processed by scavengers

The number was quoted by Marta Georgieva, a district councilwoman from Democrats for Strong Bulgaria. She was pessimistic about the ability of the government to put an end to the carriage problem. The debate around horse-propelled scavenging has been raging for decades. At one point, there was even a shelter for confiscated horses, as their owners tended to heavily mistreat the animals.

The 25% number is a serious problem for the government. You may wonder what’s the harm of recycling and collect garbage? Well, that garbage is officially public property. The state wants that garbage. The people stealing away recyclable waste from the dumpsters are preventing the slow and incompetent Sofia government from hitting their arbitrary recycling quotas.

If a homeless person with technology from the year 800 BC is better at recycling than you, maybe it’s time to take a step back and rethink your life choices.

In any case, as effective as the scavengers of Sofia are, they are still a danger to the public. They tend to be wholly ignorant of road safety rules and many of the carriage drivers are underage and uneducated Roma children. The horses are often beaten, underfed, and unwashed by their owners. They also defecate freely in the city, making the great capital of Bulgaria, a member of the European Union and a major center of the Balkans, to smell like a medieval village.

Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a writer, editor, and weapons master for

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