The baby girl, believed to be only a few hours old, was found late on Thursday afternoon in a container for recycling bottles in the town of Rouvroy, near Lens, in the Pas-de-Calais department.
According to the regional Voix du Nord newspaper the baby was discovered by a member of the public who had gone to the bottle bin to drop off their recycling at around 5.30pm.
After hearing cries the passerby thought a cat had got stuck in the bin that was full of broken glass, but opened the lid to find a baby, with its umbilical cord still attached.
After emergency services were called the baby was taken to hospital in Lens suffering from hypothermia and cuts to the skin but her life is not believed to be in danger.
An investigation has been launched to identify the girl’s mother and a public appeal for information has been made.
“We can’t be astonished after these type of acts. Is it fear or desperation that made the mother act in the way? I don’t know. Is it a desperate act?" local mayor Jean Haja told La Voix du Nord.
“I need to know more about the case before I judge.”
Magistrates were also guarded about offering up judgments before the facts of the case were clear.
“I don’t know what prompted the mother to commit this abominable act. We can condemn it, but first we need to understand it,” a leading magistrate told the newspaper.
It's not the only case of an abandoned baby that has caused shock in France in recent weeks.
Last month The Local reported how a newborn baby was found left in the toilets of Orly airport in Paris.
According to local prosecutors investigating the case, “the mother just gave birth” and then left the boy in the toilet in the departures area of the airport. Family welfare officers have launched an investigation to track down the mother.