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ENVIRONMENT

EXPLAINED: Rules on recycling in France

France has an extensive programme of recycling, from daily household waste to items including old clothes, furniture and batteries. But you'll need to know where to leave your waste to make sure that it gets recycled.

A horse draws a cart containing recyclable waste in the French town of Le Mans.
Not every town in France has a horse-drawn cart that collects recycling like this one in Le Mans. Photo: Jean-Francois Monier / AFP

It would be nice if a horse-drawn cart would come round and take away your recycling – as it does in the town of Le Mans – but that’s not the case for most French towns.

Local authorities are responsible for the household waste management in their area, which means that the rules on what can be recycled and where to put it vary from place to place.

In most areas the mairie will deliver a leaflet outlining the recycling protocol, and you can also find details on the website of your local préfecture.

Recycling bins

A lot of your everyday household waste can be recycled – paper, cardboard, tins, glass and certain types of plastic.

In most areas you can’t just leave your own household bin outside for collection, you need to put the waste into the nearest recycling bin.

These are generally the ones with the yellow lids. If you’re in a city you probably have a wheelie bin for your apartment block or street. In smaller places there will likely be large wheelie bins at a couple of strategic points around the village.

In some areas the mairie distributes recycling bags.

Instead of wheelie bins, some towns use fixed point bins for recycling. These should be clearly marked as recyclage (recycling).

If you want to try composting your food waste to make compost for the garden, some local authorities distribute composters for free.

Glass

Glass cannot usually go in the yellow recycling bin – and must be collected and disposed of separately.

Often public bins for glass are available alongside the bins for paper, plastic and cardboard, but some places have a separate recycling area for glass. If your local area doesn’t have one, or you’re struggling to find it, most supermarkets have a glass recycling bin the in the car park.

Coffee pods

If you’re a Nespresso or similar devotee, aluminium coffee pods can now be recycled in some areas. The city of Paris announced in 2019 that coffee pods can be recycled via the yellow-lid bin, and may other local authorities have followed suit.

Electrical recycling

Old electronic equipment can be taken to waste collection and recycling centres (déchèterie). Small electricals – as well as burned-out lights and empty batteries – can also be taken to collection points in many superstores. 

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

It is also worth noting also that, in the case of smaller electrical items, shops – in most circumstances – must accept an old product from a customer who no longer wants it, if the customer is buying a replacement. This includes buying products online.

A useful online tool to decide how and where you can recycle everyday household objects in your area is  here

Batteries

All shops selling batteries are obliged by law to take back the old ones for free and in supermarkets you’ll see tall plastic containers that old batteries can be dropped into.

Clothes

Unwanted clothes can be put in special collection containers found around town – often in supermarket carparks – or left at in a dedicated bin at the déchèterie.

Paint and oil

You need to go to your nearest déchèterie to dispose of paints, toxic products and waste oil from vehicles.

Car tyres

Unlike most other products, car tyres cannot be taken to the déchèterie. Instead, you should take them to a garage, which is required by law to take them off your hands free of charge.

Larger products

Larger items, such as pieces of furniture, washing machines or refrigerators can be collected by the local authority. In some areas you will need to arrange the collection in advance while others, mainly cities, have bulky waste collection points where you can leave your unwanted items on a certain day of the week. Check with your local authority for their protocol.

Some stores also offer a deliver-and-collect scheme if you’re buying larger items like sofa or washing machines, where they will take away your old item.

Member comments

  1. We don’t often give three cheers for the Saumur Agglomeration, but when it comes to recycling, they are ace. Four bins for glass, packaging, paper and household waste, and the local dechéterie deals with everything else: electrical. garden waste, building waste … And they are really nice and welcoming at our ‘tip’ in Montreuil-Bellay. For example: ‘Comment va la reine ce matin?’ Reply ‘Je ne sais pas, j’etais toujours au lit quand elle s’est levé.’

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For members

TRAVEL NEWS

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

There's been plenty written on travel rules for people coming to France - but what if you live in France and have plans for international travel over the coming months? We've got you covered.

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

France isn’t currently on the Covid red list for any country, so there is nowhere that is barred to you as a French resident, but different countries still have different entry requirements.

EU/Schengen zone

If you’re travelling to a country that is within the EU or Schengen zone then it’s pretty straightforward.

If you’re fully vaccinated then all you need is proof of vaccination at the border – no need for Covid tests or extra paperwork. Bear in mind, however, that if your second dose was more than nine months ago you will need a booster shot in order to still be considered ‘fully vaccinated’. 

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

If you were vaccinated in France then you will have a QR code compatible with all EU/Schengen border systems. If you were vaccinated elsewhere, however, your home country’s vaccination certificate will still be accepted.

If you’re not fully vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test at the border, check the individual country for requirements on how recent the test needs to be.

Bear in mind also that several EU countries still have mask/health pass rules in place and some countries specify the type of mask required, for example an FFP2 mask rather than the surgical mask more common in France. Check the rules of the country that you are travelling to in advance.

If you’re travelling to a country covered by The Local, you can find all the latest Covid rules in English on the homepages for Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland.

UK

The UK has no Covid-related travel rules, so there is no requirement for tests even if you are not vaccinated. The passenger locator form has also been scrapped – full details HERE.

Once there, there are no Covid-related health rules in place. 

If you’re travelling between France and the UK, remember the extra restrictions in place since Brexit.

USA 

Unlike the EU, the USA still has a testing requirement in place, vaccinated or not. You would need to show this prior to departure.

It has, however, lifted the restrictions on non citizens entering, so travel to the USA for tourism and visiting friends/family is once again possible.

For full details on the rules, click HERE.

Once there, most places have lifted Covid-related rules such as mask requirements, but health rules are decided by each State, rather than on a national level, so check in advance with the area you are visiting.

Other non-EU countries

Most non-EU countries have also lifted the majority of their Covid related rules, but in certain countries restrictions remain, such as in New Zealand which is reopening its border in stages and at present only accepts certain groups.

Other countries also have domestic Covid restrictions in place, particularly in China which has recently imposed a strict local lockdown after a spike in cases.

Returning to France

Once your trip is completed you will need to re-enter France and the border rules are the same whether you live here or not.

If you’re fully vaccinated you simply need to show your vaccination certificate (plus obviously passport and residency card/visa if applicable) at the border.

If you’re not vaccinated you will need to get a Covid test before you return and present the negative result at the border – the test must be either a PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours or an antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours. Home-test kits are not accepted.

If you’re returning from an ‘orange list’ country and you’re not vaccinated you will need to provide proof of your ‘essential reasons’ to travel – simply being a resident is classed as an essential reason, so you can show your carte de séjour residency card, visa or EU passport at the border.

Even if the country that you are in is reclassified as red or orange while you are away, you will still be allowed back if you are a French resident. If you’re not a French passport-holder, it’s a good idea to take with you proof of your residency in France, just in case.

Fully vaccinated

France counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ those who:

  • Are vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson)
  • Are 7 days after their final dose, or 28 days in the case of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines
  • Have had a booster shot if more than 9 months has passed since the final dose of your vaccine. If you have had a booster shot there is no need for a second one, even if more than 9 months has passed since your booster
  • Mixed dose vaccines (eg one Pfizer and one Moderna) are accepted 
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