France’s most famous refuse collector, Ludovic Francheschet, picked up more than 14 tons of garbage along one of France’s busiest A-roads as he walked from Paris to Marseille. His aim was to raise awareness of people’s bad litter habits.
The haul included, in order of quantity, 20,000 cans, 17,000 bottles - one in ten of which was filled with urine, cigarette packets, lottery tickets, Covid masks and construction workers’ gloves.
Among the more unexpected items were paintings, Christmas tinsel, oil filters and 250 bottles of laughing gas.
“Roadsides are the hidden parts of our planet,” Mr Francheschet told The Connexion. “There is everything you could imagine. It is frightening,” he added.
In total he filled 701 100-litres bin bags (weighing 14 tons and 250 kilos) in two months.
He undertook the walk on holiday from his job as a refuse collector in Paris, where he has gained 300,000 Tik Tik followers from talking about his work.
‘Nobody is here to judge you’
The problem of litter dumped along roads has been highlighted by the government in recent years with claims that it gives a poor image of France to foreigners and tourists.
20,000 tons of garbage are collected each year along Ile-de-France’s roads according to figures from the Direction des routes Ile-de-France, 14 times higher per kilometre than on any other of France’s motorways.
Mr Francheschet said the problem lies in the lack of the regular collections with refuse collectors sweeping only once to twice a year on average along motorways and A-roads. He was told this by other professionals of his profession.
It also lies in people’s habits, he said, with drivers and passengers able to dump litter easily and away from scrutiny.
“Nobody is there to see nor judge you. You open a window and it’s gone,” he said.
New challenge ahead
“I just hope that people who see what we did are now more aware. Maybe some will be deterred from throwing rubbish on the ground afterwards,” he added.
“It would be good if overall cleanliness becomes a national priority,” he said, saying that he had met with several MPs on the way.
The journey took his group through 14 towns, 13 departments, and five regions.
Mr Francheschet has made a habit to undertake such challenges on his days-off and paid holidays - he cleaned all of Paris’ bridges on days-off during summer 2022.
He is already planning his next challenge. In 2025 he hopes to walk 4,000 kilometres along France’s coastal roads in a Tour de France of garbage-collecting, starting from Dunkirk.