We all deal with trash on a daily basis, but how much do you know about recycling and waste collection in France? Continue reading to learn more.

If you’re an expat relocating to a new country, you’ll undoubtedly go through some rites of passage. Some experiences are necessary to settle into your new lifestyle, whether you’re setting up your Wi-Fi or purchasing furniture. Recycling is something you will have to deal with right when you arrive in France, and because the environment is becoming increasingly important, it’s critical that you do it correctly.

Continue reading to learn how to sort your waste the French way.

The Recycling System In France

Every year, France produces approximately 546 kilograms of waste per person, which is roughly in line with the European average. However, according to 2019 research, France recycles less than one-third of its plastic. As a result, the country is working hard to improve its recycling laws in order to become more sustainable.

France has recently banned plastic packaging on most fruits and vegetables in supermarkets and plans to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2040. Visit the French government’s website to learn more about how France is reducing waste.

Once collected, your garbage will be disposed of in one of France’s 4,614 landfills, recycled, or burned in an incinerator.

In France, How Do You Recycle?

Prior to waste collection, you must sort your materials into the appropriate containers if you are unsure whether or not to recycle certain materials, consult the government’s waste disposal directory.

Pay attention to the symbols printed on the products you buy, as they provide valuable information about recycling an item. The Mobius loop (known as L’anneau de Möbius, a triangular ring made of three arrows) is the most common recycling symbol, indicating whether an item is recyclable or not.

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Recycling Paper In France

France takes good care when recycling its paper (papier), recycling 60.5% of it. You can place your paper in a yellow-topped bin. These bins, which hold mixed recyclable waste, are widely used throughout France. The following can be recycled here:

  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Advertisements and flyers
  • Books
  • Envelopes

Collection occurs twice a week but may vary depending on your municipality. You can put stapled papers in your yellow bin, but not soiled napkins or absorbent papers, as they belong in your compost waste. They will treat your paper and turn it into new sheets or cardboard at the recycling plant.

Recycling Plastic In France

Plastic (plastique) can be recycled alongside paper in your yellow mixed recycling bin (it is for packaging – emballages recyclables). Water bottles, plastic drinking cups, and shampoo bottles are examples of recyclable plastic.

When recycling plastic, pay close attention to the classification labeled on the item. A number between one and seven appears between three arrows on the bottom of the package. You can recycle this number if it is a one, two, or five. However, it is usually not recyclable if the item has a three, four, or six-digit code. If your item has a seven, see if you can recycle it because this category includes both recyclable and non-recyclable plastics.

Plastic waste is typically collected once or twice a week. There is no need to rinse your plastic item before discarding it if it is empty. Plastic bottle lids can also be left screwed on before being discarded, though crushing them first will save space. Plastics are cleaned, separated, and used to make new products during recycling.

Recycling Glass In France

Glass (Verre) must be placed in its own bin with a white lid. Like the yellow bins, you can get your white bin for free from your local city hall. Otherwise, you can take the glass waste to a recycling center or communal bins in your area. Glass waste is typically collected once a week, but this may vary depending on where you live.

You can recycle intact bottles as well as shattered glass in any color (e.g., brown, green, clear) – you usually don’t need to remove the label or lid, but check your local rules. If the glass item is empty, you do not need to rinse it before discarding it. Glass with paint or foil on it, on the other hand, cannot be recycled because it is not suitable for redistribution. Labels and caps are removed at the recycling plant, and the glass is crushed and melted to create new items.

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Recycling Metal In France

Metal (métal) – including steel and aluminum – can be recycled in your yellow bin alongside plastic and paper. Again, the collection is usually twice a week, but this varies by municipality. Cans, aerosols, aluminum trays, and metal lids are examples of metal waste. Unless your item is empty, rinse it with water before recycling it. Steel and aluminum are separated in sorting centers before being crushed and melted down for new production.

Recycling Cardboard In France

Cardboard (carton) can also be recycled in the yellow bin with your other mixed recyclables, but it must be flattened before disposal. If your cardboard is too large to dispose of away at home, you can recycle it at a communal bin or a recycling center near you. If your cardboard contains wax or a coating, it must be discarded with non-recyclable waste. The recycled cardboard is pulped and used to make new paper and cardboard products.

Recycling Clothes And Clothing Materials In France

Even if you’re desperate to get rid of your old clothes, don’t put them in the recycling bins. Instead, you can dispose of your clothes, shoes, underwear, and linen at a collection point, which is usually located near your communal recycling bins. There are approximately 44,000 textile collection points located throughout France. Refashion.fr can help you find one near you.

Before you donate your items, make sure your clothes are dry and clean. Even if they are worn or have holes, they are still suitable for donation. Shoes, on the other hand, must be purchased in pairs. If your textiles or shoes have paint on them, they cannot be donated and must be discarded. Depending on the condition of your items, they will be repurposed as second-hand garments, clothes, insulation, or other materials. Otherwise, they will be burned or buried alongside other waste.

Once you’ve gathered all of your textiles, place them in a bag and leave them at the collection point. Collection occurs on a regular basis and varies depending on your location.

Recycling Other Household Items In France

In addition to the materials mentioned above, there are numerous other items that can be recycled in France. Here are some of the most common:

  • Batteries: You can recycle rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries at storage points near communal recycling bins, supermarkets, or schools. The metal recovered from batteries can be used to make everyday objects or new batteries.
  • Mobile Phones: Old mobile phones, including smartphones, are collected at supermarkets and recycling centers. You can also send your phone to jedonnemontelephone.fr, a non-profit organization that recycles old, new, and unused devices. When your smartphone is collected, it is disassembled in order to obtain reusable parts.
  • Household Appliances: Do you want to get rid of your large fridge or small toaster? The new circular economy law in France allows citizens to return a used appliance to a distributor when purchasing a new equivalent of the same item.

If you are still unsure about what waste is recyclable in your municipality, you can look up recycling information for various materials.

Tips For Recycling At Home

Along with carefully recycling your waste, there are additional steps you can take to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle that will benefit both you and your community. These are some examples:

  • Reduce Your Use: When there is less waste, there is less time spent recycling. Bring your Tupperware or a reusable bag to the supermarket to reduce waste. Or should I buy reusable make-up pads instead of throwing away cotton rounds?
  • Opt For Sustainable Materials: Certain household essentials are made of biodegradable materials that are both environmentally friendly and affordable. Bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo dishcloths, and biodegradable diapers are just a few examples.
  • Do Your Research: Learn about their recycling policies when you shift to a new neighborhood. Learn about your city’s recycling system and speak with the city council.
  • Pack Your Lunch: Meal preparation before work or school can help you save money on food packaging when purchasing lunch on the go.
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Composting In France

Composting Food Waste

It is time to get rid of the vegetable peelings, stalks, and eggshells after you’ve finished preparing a traditional French meal at home. Food waste accounts for one-third of all household waste in France and is stored separately from recyclables. As a result, you must dispose of your food waste in its own brown bin. These are available for free from your local city hall.

Meal leftovers, absorbent napkins, eggshells, and fruit and vegetable peels are all examples of food waste. Collection occurs at least once a week in France, either through the household collection or drop-off in a communal zone. Check with your city hall to find out when your food waste is collected.

Composting Garden Waste

Green waste, such as grass clippings, dead leaves, and other garden debris, is disposed of in the brown bin alongside your food waste. You could use your green waste to make compost for your garden instead of throwing it away. Otherwise, once thrown out, your green waste is collected according to your municipality’s schedule.

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to burn your green waste in the open air or with a garden incinerator. You could face a €450 fine.

Garbage Collection In France

What about the rest of your trash now that you know what to do with your recyclables and compost? You can put your garbage in a green bin or a black bin liner and leave it on your doorstep according to the rules and timings of your municipality. Otherwise, you can dispose of it in a public drop-off location. Your city hall can provide you with a free green bin.

Waste collection in France varies depending on where you live. Waste collection is typically handled by the municipality or city hall (services municipaux). Garbage collection times vary by municipality, so check with your city hall to find out when yours is. You can also access trash collection times by downloading a trash collection app, such as Uzer.

You can get your different bins from your city hall for free. If you prefer to choose your own bin to match your decor, you can purchase one from a homeware store.

If you live in an apartment building, communal bins are usually located in a yard or a designated area on the property. Those who live outside of major cities may need to recycle the waste in a more central location, as the household collection may be unavailable. Contact your city hall if you are unsure where to dispose of your waste.

Waste collection occurs at various times, depending on your location. You can learn more about your waste collection schedule by contacting your town hall or visiting their website.

The Taxe d’Enlèvement des Ordures Ménagères (TEOM) – is a local tax that all homeowners must pay – pay for waste collection. This is included in your taxe foncière (property tax) and is denoted by the letters TEOM on your tax bill.

Be aware that your municipality’s waste regulations may be stringent, so dispose of your trash properly or risk a fine.

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Penalties For Illegally Dumping Waste Or Recycling In France

If you are caught throwing trash in public, you will be fined between €135 and €1,500, depending on the offense and how quickly you repay the sum. On the other hand, if you do not follow your municipality’s waste rules (date, time, sorting), you risk a fine starting at €35. These fines must be paid to your local municipality. See the government’s page on waste fines for more information.

Useful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Dispose Of Trash In France?

France’s garbage collection. You can put your garbage in a green bin or a black bin liner and leave it on your doorstep according to the rules and timings of your municipality. Otherwise, you can dispose of it in a public drop-off location. Your city hall can provide you with a free green bin.

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How Is Waste Managed In France?

Recycling and waste valorization were used to treat waste (municipal) collected in waste disposal centers, with over 70% of the waste collected recycled. However, one-quarter of the municipal waste collected was disposed of in landfills.

What Does France Do With Their Trash?

Despite this, the country’s long history of ineffective waste management does not match its rich antiquity. As of March 2018, less than 25% of plastic packaging was recycled, with the remaining 75% incinerated in landfills, putting France behind its European counterparts.

What Is The Yellow Bin For In France?

The yellow bin will most likely be labeled with the following contents: All packaging made of paper, cardboard, steel, or aluminum, including processed food trays, lids, milk or juice cartons, cans, and aerosols. Plastic bottles, such as those used for drinks or shampoo.

How Is Garbage Collected In Paris?

Drivers and loaders, as well as civil servants and private service providers. Truck drivers and loaders are responsible for depositing the contents of bins into the back of the garbage truck in mechanized waste collection.

Is France Good At Recycling?

France’s lack of organization in recycling is reflected in the statistics: the country recycles only 25% of its waste and only 22% of its plastic packaging, ranking it 25th out of 30 European countries in terms of recycling, according to AFP.