The worker dubbed Paris’ most famous binman has set himself the challenge of picking up 10 tonnes of rubbish between the French capital and Marseille.
Ludovic Franceschet, 47, who has 29,000 followers on Instagram, is walking the 800 kilometres between the two cities to raise awareness about excess waste.
He began his walk last Tuesday (August 7) and three friends are accompanying him. He has packed 1,600, 100-litre rubbish bags for the 54 days of litter-picking ahead.
He will sleep in a tent and his friends will sleep in the campervan and trailer accompanying them. Mr Franceschet told The Connexion he had not been on holiday this year so he could save up sufficient days off to cover the trip.
The journey will take him through 14 towns, 13 departments, and five regions. He has already made agreements with many towns to allow him to dump waste locally.
The team will make one video a day documenting the trip and post it to social media. They are aiming to improve the public image of binmen, raise awareness of the importance of their work, and continue to highlight opposition to France’s still-controversial retirement reforms.
Even though Mr Franceschet said he loves his job, he is still calling for people to dump less litter.
“People are gross,” he told The Connexion. “Stop throwing things on the ground. There are 33,000 bins in Paris. If one’s full, just walk to the next one. In places with a lot of traffic like Chatelet, we empty them five or six times a day. Just be patient, take that extra step and put your rubbish in the bin.”
He added: “You know, I wake up with numb fingers because we're picking up waste with tongs, we're pulling 600-litre bins, we're breathing in toxic fumes behind the lorry, it’s really bad.”
He said that he also has to deal with “the stress” of working in all weathers and aggression from motorists and passers-by.
He has also received death threats from people online, he said.
“The first year, I got spat at,” he said. “You're on the front line. Sometimes, when you're a binman, you have buses brushing up against your ears, and no one cares.
He has also said that with the new retirement reforms, he will be forced to work until age 68.
“But the good thing about [Instagram] fame,” he said, “is that people come to see me everywhere. I work and we take selfies, and then we talk about rubbish and cleaning, and it’s interesting. They don’t come to see me, Ludovic, they come to see the binman. And I give the word ‘binman’ beauty, and importance.”
It comes after a recent poll by Ipsos for motorway operator Vinci Autoroutes found that 27% of people in France admit to throwing rubbish out of their car while travelling on the motorway.
Mr Franceschet chose to walk to Marseille because his mother lives there and “because I’ve had enough of people criticising the Phocaean city”, he said. “There too, there are binmen who do everything they can to make the city more beautiful. I want to champion their work and change people’s views.”
He told The Connexion that he had already received significant support on his journey, and had collected 1.4 tonnes of rubbish just three days into his trip.
He said: “We’ve had a lot of people honking their horns in support, someone even stopped to take a picture.
“There’s Max, whom I met on Tik Tok; Tony, who used to throw his rubbish on the ground and is now on a quest for forgiveness, and Patrick, the former owner of the campervan we’re using now.
“We’re having an amazing experience.”
The team is set to arrive in central Marseille on September 24, at 14:00.