Reader Question: I want to dispose of some bags of garden waste but I have read that burning them is not allowed. Is this correct?
French law forbids residents from starting a fire in their garden to get rid of biowaste such as leaves, plants or cut grass.
This applies both to open-air bonfires and to garden incinerators, under a 2020 law relating to the fight against waste and the promotion of a circular economy.
Biowaste includes food scraps, cooking oils and other biodegradable waste which can be broken down by microorganisms like bacteria.
The reasons behind the ban on burning garden waste are as follows:
- The combustion of biowaste releases harmful gases, especially if it is damp or burnt with plastic or solvents. Emissions include NOx gases, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dangerous particulates which can be carcinogenic in humans
- Burning waste creates an unpleasant smell and smoke which could disturb your neighbours
- Garden bonfires increase the risk of an accidental blaze, especially during the dry summer months
However, there do exist some exceptions to this rule.
Your local mairie can allow you to burn garden waste if:
- There is no public rubbish tip in the area
- Collection services do not cover this type of waste
- You need to start a fire to eliminate plant parasites or invasive plant species
“In exceptional cases and only for the eradication of epiphytes or the elimination of invasive plant species, individual exemptions can be issued by the state representative in the department [in question],” the Code de l’environnement states.
Those who burn garden waste when not permitted to do so risk a fine totalling €450 or more.
If the fire causes a particular nuisance to a neighbour, they can also claim damages from the person at fault.
What are the alternatives to a bonfire?
State authorities suggest that people wishing to get rid of garden waste might consider:
- Composting it
- Taking it to a public rubbish dump
- Organising collection by a door to door service
- Mulching it
You can find out more about the options available to you by contacting your local commune or consulting the website. Here you should be able to find information on collection days.