Rubbish on Paris streets as treatment centres strike

Paris dustbin workers struggle to deal with the waste backlog as the incinerator strikes continue

Rubbish is piling up in the streets of Paris as pension strikes continue at incineration centres, causing a backlog of waste, and a “very worrying” amount of rubbish being buried instead of burned.

On Monday this week (February 4), protesters voted to continue action until at least February 7, just days after a prefectural decree was passed to ensure a minimum service and the controversial decision to deal with the waste by burial.

Normally, three Paris incineration sites - Saint-Ouen, Isséane-Issy-Les-Moulineaux and Ivry-sur-Seine - burn more than 6,000 tonnes of waste per day. This then goes on to power homes and businesses via the heating company la Compagnie Parisienne de Chauffage Urbain (CPCU).

But since January 23, these major incineration furnaces have been operating at a reduced level, leading to waste buildup at the centres and on the streets. This has prompted local authorities to take out the new decree - to force the burial of the waste, rather than the usual burning - to avoid the sites from becoming overwhelmed with rubbish.

A spokesperson from Syctom, the public company that is dealing with the waste of six million Ile-de-France inhabitants, said: “As a result [of the decree], the factories are now being used not as treatment centres, but as transit centres.

“We take in the skips, before transferring them on to rubbish trucks and sending them to private burial centres.”

Since the strike, more than 5,000 tonnes of waste have been buried, at a cost of €700,000 per day, paid for by the taxpayer. The extra trucks also use extra fossil fuels.

The transfer of waste from factory to rubbish truck takes more time than the usual process, meaning that over the weekend, workers were only able to pick up two thirds of the usual rubbish from Paris streets. This has led to build up around rubbish bins and residential areas.

Paul Simondon, Paris deputy cleanliness manger, denounced the issue as “an absolutely unacceptable, very worrying ecological situation”.

He said that “by Monday (February 3), the capacity had increased a little, which allowed us to pick up the usual amounts of rubbish for a normal Monday, but not enough to make up for the backlog.”

He called on the State to “take responsibility”, and said: “It is a question of sanitation; Ile-de-France must absolutely recover its waste treatment ability and work them at full capacity so that we can deal with the backlog.”

The strike is set to continue at least until the end of the week (Friday February 7).

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