What you need to know before going to a French recycling centre

Doing some renovation work? Want to get rid of a broken fridge or sagging couch? Here are a few tips to plan your next trip to the recycling centre.

What you need to know before going to a French recycling centre
Photo: AFP

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.


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

If you have a question on life in France or the French, email us at [email protected] and we'll do our best to answer it.











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French police launch new service to keep empty homes secure

Leaving your property empty puts it at risk of burglars or squatters and this is a particular worry for second-home owners, whose homes are often vacant for prolonged periods.

French police launch new service to keep empty homes secure

French police run a scheme called Opération Tranquillité Vacances which involves householders telling their local police that they will be away, so they can keep an eye on the property.

The scheme has run in various forms since 1974, but now an online platform has been set up allowing property owners to make their declaration in just a few clicks.

It’s largely targeted at French people who are going away over the summer and leaving their homes empty, but it’s not limited to French nationals and can be used all year around.

Under the scheme, householders and businesses can ask their local gendarmes to keep a watch over their properties while they are away for a period of up to three months.

READ ALSO How to get rid of squatters from your French property

Police and gendarmes patrols visit houses on their list at various times during the day or night, checking shutters, gates, and back gardens to make sure all is as it should be – and to act as a deterrent to any criminal groups checking the area.

The new online service is not limited to French nationals or French residents, but it does require a FranceConnect account to operate, meaning that you need to be registered in at least one French database (eg the tax office, benefits office or in the health system).

The form can be used to cover both main residences and second homes (résidence secondaire) but there is a limit of three months at a time for the property to be vacant.

You can find the form HERE and it can be completed between three and 45 days before your departure.

You can also register in person at your nearest police station or gendarmerie unit. Take ID and proof of address, such as a recent utility bill, if you do it this way.

Summertime is high-season for criminals in France, who target homes that have been left vacant while their owners are away on holiday.

Opération Tranquillité Vacances was introduced in 1974 as a means to keep crime rates down during the summer holiday period. It was extended to include other school holidays in 2009, and is now available all year round.