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Face mask littering in France risks fine up to €375

Littering in France in a public place - including medical face masks, and cigarette butts - will soon risk a fine of €135, rising to €375 in case of non-payment, as the government cracks down on litter post-Covid-19.

Currently, littering is punishable by a fine of €68.

But yesterday (Sunday June 7), junior ecology minister Brune Poirson announced that fines would be increasing this summer.

The new fine will start at €135, rising to €180 and then to €375 if it is not paid on time. This could even rise to €750 if the police are required to prepare a report and escalate the issue to court.

The new fines, which apply to all litter, have become especially pertinent in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, as “new waste linked to the health crisis” has become more common, including face masks, plastic hand gloves, and disposable cleaning wipes.

Most medical face masks are made of polypropylene, a derivative of oil, which can take up to 450 years to degrade in nature.

Speaking during a visit to coastal commune Lège-Cap-Ferret (Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Ms Poirson said: “Everyone must understand that all objects thrown on the ground often finish their journey in the ocean.

“If we want clean oceans and seas, it starts with clean pavements.”

The minister is also planning to step up a campaign to educate people on how not to litter.

The new fines come after anti-pollution groups previously warned that more Covid-19-related litter was already ending up in the sea and around the French coast.

One video filmed by activist Laurent Lombard (below), of anti-sea pollution association Opération Mer Propre (“Operation Clean Sea”), showed that the coast of Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) is already suffering from a sharp rise in pollution from these medical items.

Mr Lombard, who posted the video on Facebook, wrote: “Would you like to take a dip with Covid-19 this summer?”

Similarly, French MP Eric Pauget had called for fines of up to €300 for anyone caught throwing a mask on the ground and not disposing of it (or any other waste) properly.

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