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One million tonnes of litter dumped in France in 2020

The amount was almost double that of two years before, a new NGO report claims. Roadside areas are the worst affected with lockdown takeaway rubbish adding to the problem

A pile of rubbish and rubble next to the road

A million tonnes of waste was estimated to have been littered across France in 2020, with roadside rubbish especially bad Pic: Natalya Kokhanova / Shutterstock

One million tonnes of rubbish was left strewn illegally across France in 2020, a new NGO report has found, a figure that has doubled in the past two years. Roadsides are especially cluttered, it said.

The new estimate by the NGO Gestes Propres (‘Clean/Right Actions’) found that a million tonnes of waste had been illegally littered in the countryside or public places across France last year, twice as many as in 2018.

In 2018, the NGO – which works closely with the Ecology Ministry – counted 520,000 tonnes of rubbish in public places, just under half of last year’s figure.

Carole Carpentier at Gestes Propres told Le Parisien: “Littering means everything from cigarette butts thrown out of windows, cans thrown out of bins, to bulky items abandoned on the pavement or mattresses left at the bottom of buildings.”

A rubbish collector from the City of Paris added that the issue does not only exist in big cities but also “in small villages, where sometimes workers empty their rubbish or [construction] rubble at the edge of a field”.

And while the Covid pandemic and lockdowns meant that there was less litter in tourist places, roadside areas across the country were still badly affected, said Gestes Propres. 

A total of 78,000 tonnes of rubbish was found along roadsides, in comparison to 10,000 tonnes found in waterways, 660 tonnes along beaches, and 450 tonnes on ski slopes.

The NGO said: “Even though road use dropped over lockdown, takeaway consumption rose sharply, and so did their associated litter.”

A recent survey found that littering is relatively common, with over a quarter (27%) of people in France admitting to having left waste on the ground before, Ms Carpentier said, citing polls by Ifop from 2020 and 2021.

The NGO has suggested a three-pronged approach in a bid to improve the issue, and in the same polls asked the public whether they would be in favour of the moves.

  • Harsher sanctions against litterers (54% in favour)

  • More educational measures (23% in favour)

  • Better collection methods (25% in favour)

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