Gendarmerie trace woman who dumped pile of items in field in France

Officers found her after months of investigation. She was moving home and had been denied access to a tip as had not sorted the items

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A woman in southwest France who was moving house and dumped a huge pile of unwanted goods in a field after having been refused access to a local tip has been found by gendarmerie.

The woman, 18, had loaded a pile of boxes and unwanted items into a dump truck to throw away before moving home last summer but she was denied entry to her local déchèterie because she would not sort the items.

So instead, she dumped the pile in a field in an area bordering the A64 road, near the commune of Ponlat-Taillebourg, in Haute-Garonne (Occitanie).

The gendarmerie, who received the report of the rubbish, traced the perpetrator after several months to the town of Tournay, Hautes-Pyrénées. They also removed the rubbish to protect the environment.

The woman is now set to appear in court at the end of the month in connection with the incident.

What are the penalties for dumping rubbish?

Dumping rubbish of any kind (whether in black bags, furniture, white goods, or other items) in nature is illegal in France.

Since December 27, 2019, a law has authorised mayors to punish people who regularly dump rubbish with an administrative bill of €500 (as part of measures to remove the rubbish) as well as the penal fines.

The basic, minimum fine for abandoning rubbish in nature is €135, payable within 45 days. If not paid within 45 days, the amount rises to €375. If not paid then, mayors and police can escalate the case to court.

A judge can issue fines of up to €750, and up to €1,500 and confiscation of your vehicle, if the waste was transported in a vehicle.

Fines can also be issued for the charges of ‘disrespecting the rules of collection’, ‘abandoning rubbish’, ‘abandoning rubbish transported in a vehicle’, and ‘permanent blocking of the public space’.

Businesses, such as construction companies, can be fined much more if they deposit waste from jobs, such as rubble or paint.

Mayors can also issue other fines for individual actions such as depositing objects in the public space that could fall over and cause injury or obstruction, non-disposal of trees or green waste, pouring toxic waste into the environment, or using the public space for non-authorised commercial activities.

Mayors and other authorities must inform the person in question in writing of their contravention of the law, as well as the measures expected of them to rectify the problem, as well as the sanction they risk if they do not comply. After 10 days, another letter will be sent.

If nothing is done after a further 10 days, the mayor has the right to fine the perpetrator, as well as charge the €500 fine for administrative effort.

Read also: ‘Waste mafia’ boss jailed over mass illegal rubbish dumping in nature

‘Returned to sender’

Several mayors have hit headlines in France in recent years for their response to people dumping waste in nature or in public spaces.

In 2020, Christophe Dietrich, the mayor of Laigneville in Oise (‎Hauts-de-France), published a video saying that a 10-tonne pile of rubbish dumped in a field would be ‘returned to sender’ within 48 hours, along with a fine of €4,000.

In January 2019, a mayor in Côtes-d'Armor (Brittany) returned a pile of "Christmas rubbish" back to its owner, with a note reading: "These boxes, wrapping paper and leftover food [must have fallen] off Father Christmas’ sleigh when he was leaving your house. To help repair his error, I thought it would be useful to bring them back to you."

And in September 2018, a mayor in Ille-et-Vilaine reported a similar incident after a homeowner dumped rubbish including what appeared to be a large microwave.

The government has also sought to address the problem, which sees people dump more than 800,000 tonnes of rubbish illegally every year. In 2018, then-Ecology Minister Brune Poirson launched a committee group to tackle the problem.

In a statement, the group said: “Fly-tipping in nature creates a significant environmental, social and economic impact. It undermines the cleanliness of public spaces, and sometimes even threatens health. The cost of regular clean ups is a heavy cost to carry for local authorities.”

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