French mayor collects fly-tipped waste and dumps it at culprits’ house

The mayor is latest of several to use radical measures to combat growing litter problems in their communes

29 October 2021
A pile of household waste dumped in the countryside

Flytipping and illegal dumping of waste has led many mayors and local communes to impose radical measures on perpetrators in a bid to curb the problem Pic: Urbanbuzz / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

A mayor of a small commune in eastern France has become the latest to return illegally dumped rubbish to its owner and deposited fly-tipped waste in the culprits’ garden.

Jean-Pierre Dessein took action after becoming exasperated with illegally dumped waste on the streets and surrounding areas.

In a bid to teach the perpetrators - and others - a lesson, he filmed himself ‘returning’ around a dozen pieces of wood that the culprits had dumped illegally. The video was then published on Facebook.

He said: “We had warned people. Take note, offenders: If you are identified, it will be ‘returned to sender’!”

Mr Dessein told BFMTV that the fly-tipping was noticed by two council workers while out jogging in the area. They saw a couple abandoning wooden boards next to a buried container that had recently been put in place by the commune, he said.

He added: “My employees saw with their own eyes who had dumped these boards, and they called me immediately, as this is not a new problem in this commune.”

Mr Dessein said he visited the house of the perpetrators in Art-sur-Meurthe, Meurthe-et-Moselle (Grand Est) and asked to speak with the couple but no-one “deigned to reply”.

He said: “So I took the boards, I asked my employees to film it to have proof, and before anyone accuses us of damaging the items, we simply returned them to sender.”

The mayor said that the couple then reacted quickly, and accepted that the rubbish was theirs, but claimed that they did not know they were not allowed to dump it where they did. 

But Mr Dessein responded: “I don’t want to hear it. I’ve been warning people for months, especially in this neighbourhood, about this issue. Generally, we regularly find all sorts of rubbish on our streets: tyres, furniture, boxes, building rubble…

“Last week, I was cross because we found a paint pot upside down on a pavement...there was paint everywhere. We are only a small commune with barely 1,700 inhabitants, and we only have two council workers. If they are wasting time scraping paint off the floor, they can’t do anything else.”

He said that until now, the council had focused on educating people, but that the latest problem was “too much”, especially as the nearest dump is only 6km from the town.

He finished: “There’s no excuse. People must know that I will no longer hesitate to use these radical methods.” 

Mayors taking major action against illegal waste

Mr Dessein is not the only mayor to take strong action against fly-tipping and illegal waste dumping in recent years. 

Last year, the mayor of Laigneville in Oise (Hauts-de-France), Christophe Dietrich, published a video on Facebook of 10 tonnes of rubbish strewn over a field, including bed frames, plastic seats, metal frames, armchairs, wooden doors, door frames, mattresses, and sofas.

Having identified the culprits due to CCTV, Mr Dietrich added that the waste would be “returned to sender at home”, less than 48 hours after it was dumped.

Five vans full of the waste drove to the individuals’ home address, and dumped the waste outside, to punish the perpetrator and force them to dispose of the contents responsibly.

In 2019, Arnaud Lécuyer, mayor of Saint-Pôtan in Côtes-d'Armor, became irritated at a pile of rubbish dumped anonymously in the town centre, and decided to investigate the perpetrator.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Lécuyer said that a local address was visible among the pile of boxes, gift wrapping, food leftovers and other household waste, prompting the mayor to return the rubbish to its rightful owners.

In a letter accompanying the return, Mr Lécuyer included a photo of the waste, and wrote: “Over this holiday season, I suppose that these boxes, wrapping paper and leftover food fell off Father Christmas’ sleigh when he was leaving your house.

"To help repair his error, I thought it would be useful to bring them back to you."

And in September 2018, Denis Rapinel, a mayor of the Ille-et-Vilaine commune Mont-Saint-Michel, returned a huge pile of household waste to a local resident after finding it dumped in the countryside.

Related stories

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Limoges: Campaign makes a crime scene out of fly-tipping

Surprise fly-tipping find for mayor in northeast France

French mayor ‘returns’ 10 tonnes of illegal waste

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