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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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LIVING IN FRANCE

What you need to know about microchipping your pet in France

Under French law, dogs, cats and ferrets that are kept as pets must be identified and registered on a national database.

What you need to know about microchipping your pet in France

The animal must be identifiable by a tattoo or microchip – the most common method – registered on the Identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD) database. 

All dogs aged four months and over, cats over seven months old, and ferrets born after November 1st, 2021, that are over seven months old that were, must be tagged in this way. This also offers pet owners peace of mind as it means they can be easily identified and returned if they go missing, as pets sometimes do.

READ ALSO Do you really need a licence if your cat has kittens in France?

The procedure to insert the microchip, or ink the tattoo, must be carried out by an approved professional. The procedure should be done by a vet and costs between €40 and €70.

For anyone who has travelled to France from another country with a pet, the animal will already be microchipped – and on the register. But if the animal joined a family while in France, a trip to the vet may be in order.

READ ALSO Paperwork and shots: How to bring a pet to France from the USA

Once the animal is registered on the database, the owner will receive a letter from I-CAD, along with a credit card-sized document listing the registered animal’s details, including its home address.

It is up to the owner to ensure the details remain correct, including notifying the database operators of any change of address. This can be done via the I-CAD website. Alternatively, you could use the Filalapat app (download for free here), or the more traditional postal service.

As well as declaring any change of address, you should also inform the database operators if you are giving up the animal, or if it dies.

Under a 2021, first-time buyers of cats or dogs have to sign a ‘certificate of commitment and understanding’ before they are allowed to purchase a pet. 

After the signed document is delivered to the authorities, future owners have seven days to change their mind – the idea is to prevent people from ‘impulsively’ buying pets only to abandon them later. 

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