Residents fight pay-by-bag bin fees in south-west France

Two associations are taking legal action against the firm that provides the service

Syndicat Mixte Départemental des Déchets de Dordogne bin collection lorry in France
The ‘pay-by-bag’ initiative is said to have increased the cost of waste disposal and led to increased fly tipping

Two local residents’ associations are taking legal action against the firm that provides pay-per-bag rubbish collection in Dordogne, with one group arguing that the scheme is discriminatory.

Rubbish collection incentive charges are aimed at encouraging households to put less in the waste bin and more in recycling and, where possible, a bio waste collection bin.

While the system’s advocates claim that it helps in reducing waste, many residents say it is impractical, expensive and counter-productive.

Indeed, many residents have joined associations to fight the spread of ‘incentive charges’.

Two of these associations in Dordogne are taking legal action against the group that provides the collection service, the Syndicat Mixte Départemental des Déchets de Dordogne (SMD3).

Read more: Dordogne residents ready for court battle over ‘incentive’ bin charges

‘Bins are discriminatory’

One group, the Association Citoyenne de Lutte Déchets 24 (CLD24PSP) took the SMD3 service to court on June 10 arguing that the system was discriminatory and needed significant changes.

The CLD24PSP told Bordeaux’s administrative court that the SMD3 must make its electronically-controlled bins more accessible to disabled and elderly people and other vulnerable groups.

Read more: Stroke victim in Dordogne faces €2,000 a year waste collection bill

Adrien Pech, the association’s lawyer, said: “Not only are the trapdoors on the bins too high, but there are too few bins, so people have to drive kilometres to dispose of their rubbish.” 

The group also argued that disabled and sick people are discriminated against by the charges, as they often produce more non-recyclable waste than other households. 

“The association wants a return to the old system of door-to-door collection, which worked well for many years and is still available in other parts of France,” Mr Pech said.

Another group, the Association des Mécontents de la Collecte des Déchets en Dordogne (AMCODD), has ongoing cases against SMD3 in administrative and civil courts. 

Up to 450 members of the group gathered in Périgueux on June 15 to protest against the charges.

Read more: France considers €3 per bin collection charge

Higher prices and more fly tipping

Many residents of the department no longer have door-to-door collections but must take their waste to local communal bin points, where rubbish can be disposed of only by swiping an electronic card that unlocks a trapdoor to the bin.

The fees vary depending on the size of the household and include a fixed number of trapdoor openings per year starting at €203 for the year. This allows 16 openings for a single person after which each extra opening costs €5.58.

Some people have seen sharp rises in their waste collection bills.

The system has also led to a significant increase in fly tipping.

Périgueux city council reports that it was forced to clear away 440 tonnes of rubbish from fly tipping and sacks left beside bins in 2023 – 44% more than in previous years.

Before the change, most communes had door-to-door collection of black bag and recycling bag waste, on weekly or fortnightly cycles.

The SMD3 card also gives access to recycling centres 26 times a year, with additional visits each charged at €10.

Gardeners have complained that 26 visits is insufficient to dispose of clippings and lawn mowings, especially as the burning of such waste is now banned. 

The policy has also led Calitom, the body that collects rubbish in neighbouring Charente, to warn that its system of free-collection bins might be scrapped as so many people from Dordogne are now putting their rubbish in Calitom bins.