They lead us down to the ground floor out back. There, in the enclosed courtyard, there were three curious submarine – or should I say subterranean pipes – with porthole door openings poking out of the cobbled ground.
“Just open the door, and drop in your rubbish”, the couple explained to us.
“So, where does it go”, I asked, curious.
“Oh we don’t know. It just works. We’ve never seen anyone empty it, or anything. Maybe they burn it and use the energy to heat the city, or something.”
I didn’t think they burned it, there were no vents, or smoke anywhere in the city. There was also no easy means of retrieving the rubbish from the pipes. However, there was a mysterious square vent next to them.
And then, as we’ve wandered the city, we started noticing them everywhere, by all apartment blocks, with apartment dwellers stuffing their rubbish through the port-holes.
I have yet to see a rubbish truck in Bergen.
The pipes were a mystery. Where do they go?
My imagination crafted an elaborate scenario of the Norwegians creating a complex subterranean rubbish tunnel network (they do like their tunnels), with trucks and giant conveyor belts – perhaps resembling something from the early Buffy episodes.
Brian thought this was unlikely.
Unable to come up with a more feasible explanation, we turned to The Google.
It turns out, I wasn’t far off. There is a 1/2 metre diameter underground rubbish tunnel Network throughout Bergen, some 12km of it.
It’s a packet switched network.
We drop our rubbish through the portal and it is then sucked to a central location for processing. The vents next to the pipe were not to extract rubbish, but to provide air circulation when the vacuum is activated for that site.
It’s a beautifully tidy and clean solution. No smelly overflowing rubbish bins spilling into the streets, and no noisy rubbish tracks attempting to make their way up the narrow cobbled roads on weekday mornings, with residents running to the curb trying to get their bins out in time.
And, best yet, there is a complex subterranean tunnel system after all.