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'Another two weeks' to clean thousands of tonnes of rubbish off Paris streets

The Local France
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'Another two weeks' to clean thousands of tonnes of rubbish off Paris streets
A woman walks past a pile of garbage bags that have been piling up since waste collectors went on strike against the French government's proposed pensions reform, in Paris on March 20th. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

The French government has used strike-breaking powers to force Paris waste collectors back to work - but still thousands of tonnes of garbage remain piled up on the capital's streets. Local authorities estimate that the clean-up could take up to two weeks.

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Large piles of waste remained stacked on the streets of France's capital on Tuesday, despite moves to begin forcing garbage collectors and drivers back to work on Saturday. 

As of Monday, waste collection remained disrupted, but local authorities noted an improvement in the amount of garbage collected on Paris' streets - dropping from approximately 10,000 tonnes to about 9,300. 

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember

According to a statement by the Paris police préfecture, about 206 garbage trucks, four waste-sorting services, and 674 workers have been forced back into service since requisitions began on March 16th.

The controversial strike-breaking power known as 'requisition' was requested by the government to deal with what it says was the health hazard of uncollected waste, and was put into action by Paris police over the weekend.

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Local authorities also specified in a press release on Monday that 118 refuse collection rounds were carried out on Saturday and 168 were carried out on Sunday.

"On Monday, 195 refuse collection rounds were planned, but 122 could not be completed due to partial or full blockades at waste treatment centres", local authorities noted.

As of Tuesday, several waste sorting and treatment centres remained blocked - including those in Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis), Ivry-sur-Seine and Issy-les-Moulineaux, according to France Bleu. Waste collection workers had been engaging in strike action in the Paris area for over two weeks, as of Tuesday.

Garbage is likely to remain on the streets of Paris for the coming days, as blockades have caused collection delays and "doubled the emptying times at incinerators", according to the Paris mayor's office on Monday.

Garbage collector and union representative for the Force ouvrière, Naima Sebbar, told Franceinfo that workers have "slowed down their pace".

"They're going to drag their feet and they're going to take their time. We have had general meetings with workers, and they know that the strategy is to collect as little as possible". 

In an interview with Le Figaro on Monday, the mayor of Paris' 9th arrondisement estimated that cleaning up all the garbage on Paris' streets could take "up to two weeks".

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It is also worth noting that several of Paris' districts have remained untouched by strike action, as garbage collection is serviced by private companies rather than public employees.

Specifically, municipal services provide collection in the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 20th arrondissements. Other arrondissements, which use private waste-collection firms, have been unaffected by the strikes.

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