What can I bring to the recycling centre?
In theory, your local déchetterie (recycling centre) accepts any kind of garbage which does not fall under usual trash collections. However, there are a few rules and exceptions to know before driving to the centre.
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Paper and flattened cardboard boxes sometimes need to be separated from one another because their recycling processes differ – when in doubt, divide the two so you're not the person who has to do it on-site.
If you are renovating your house, you can drop off builder's waste and rubble. But be careful, some places include plaster in this category, but not all of them.
You can also drop old clothes, furniture and electrical appliances, from a fridge to a small toaster. If you simply do not want them anymore but they are still good enough to be used, try to donate to charities such as Emmaus.
Oils will also be recycled, be it vegetable or used oils from your car.
Different types of waste go in different skips, so look at the signs or if in doubt ask the déchetterie staff what goes where (for example there is often a different skip for treated wood such as old doors or window frames and untreated wood).
How does it work?
Recycling centres all apply limitations regarding your drop-off volume per day, which may vary depending on where you live. Standard volumes average 1 cubic metre a day for bulky waste, rubble, cardboard and scrap iron. For green or garden waste such as leaves, branches, grass cuttings and so on, it goes up to 2 or 3 cubic metres cube a day.
To access most centres, you will need a proof of address – or as the French call it, un justificatif de domicile. This is mainly to make sure people who drive in live in the area. Some déchetteries will even give you a badge to monitor your comings and goings.
You may be charged past a certain number of drop-offs a year, but unless you plan on renovating your entire neighborhood, you should be fine.
What are the exceptions?
There is a number of things that you cannot bring to your local recycling centre. Here is a non-exhaustive list: animal corpses, medical, radioactive and electronic waste or gas bottles.
The handling of chemical-based products like paint or insecticides is specific to each place, so you might want to check beforehand how your local centre proceeds.
Feeling like a rebel?
If you planned to spare yourself from a trip to the déchetterie and leave your waste on the side of the road, just know this is punishable by law. Flat-fee fines can range from €35 to €750 depending on what you abandoned in public space.
About 90 percent of French municipalities are affected by fly-tipping – the phenomenon is such that some mayors have set up some 'pièges photos' (pictures traps) to identify the flytippers.
Some helpful French vocab
Encombrants – Bulky waste
Gravats – Rubble or builder's waste
Déchets verts – Green waste
Appareil électroménager – Electrical appliance
Papiers et cartons – Papers and cardboards
Huile de vidange – Waste oil
Ferraille – Scrap iron
Bois traité/ non traité – Treated/ untreated wood
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