France sorting system and its limits
France is sorting its waste, there are sometimes some very slight recycling capability variations depending on which area you live or stay in. In homes, you will usually find 4 types of sorting:
1) recyclable plastic, metal and carton,
2) paper (magazines, newspapers and envelops),
3) glass packaging and
4) other food or packaging waste.
You will find here, although in French, the explanations on what types of packaging should be placed in which bin. Citeo’s Guide du Tri application will help you sort your trash better, you enter the product name and where you live and they will tell you which bin to place it in, they are also allowing you to find collection points in your area.
Bigger items that you have not been able to donate or sell (check our section on that below) have to be disposed of in waste reception centres called “déchetteries”. Here is a guide to find your closest one.
If you are staying in a non eco-friendly hotel, you will probably only get 1 bin for all your trash. That is why it is important to reduce your waste to a minimum. You may also want to use Citeo’s application mentioned above to bring recyclable waste directly to a collection point.
When out an about in France, you will find public bins but there are rarely separating recyclable from burnable waste. So, if you can, keep your recyclable waste with you and throw it in the appropriate bin once you get home.
Composting green waste in France
If you are living in France for a few weeks or more, I recommend you to look into composting in order to reduce your burnable waste even more.
There are different types of compost boxes such as worm composter, Bokashi composter etc. You can either buy one ready to use such as this flower pot composter from a young French start-up or make one yourself. Here are some DIY if you have a garden or if you don’t have one.
Having a composter works whether you live in a house or a flat, so go for it! You can then use the compost to feed your plants, bring it to a collective compost area or donate it to a nearby public garden. In this article, you will find some useful tips to get started with composting and a good selection of ready-to-buy indoor composters.
You can also check if a collective compost already exist in your area and bring your green waste there directly. Les Activateurs and Réseau Compost Citoyens have started identifying these places on a map. If you find one on the map near where you are staying, do not hesitate to get in touch with the people to know more about the rules of place and be able to bring your green waste there.
The application Too Good To Go helps you to find local stores that have soon to be expired produces and allows you to pick up from them a “surprise” basket for a fraction of the price. That is a great way to do good for the planet while saving money.
Single use items
Since 2017, lightweight plastic bags or not allowed to be distributed in stores anymore. There is however an exception for compostable plastic bags that are partially made from bio-based materials. As of the beginning of 2020, France will have also banned the sale of plastic cups, plates, straws, coffee stirrers, cotton buds and any other single-use item that is using plastic.
Even though plastic single-use items are now being banned, it is still important to avoid the use of single-use items whatever material these are made of and look for reusable alternatives.
Returnable packaging for glass bottles is making a return in France after having disappeared in the late 1990’s. Not all glass bottles can be washed and repurposed due to the current lack of infrastructure for that in some areas and also the fact that some labels are difficult to remove.
For the moment, there is no national mapping of places doing returnable glass packaging but we have listed below the areas who are represented so far and the maps of partner stores.
- Alsace: three local drink brands (Météor, Lisbeth and Carola) have partnered to set up a returnable packaging network. Collection self-service machines are set up in the supermarkets of this region to allow you to return glass bottles from these brands and get 0.20€ back per bottle returned.
- Bretagne: Distro
- Grenoble area: Ma bouteille s’appelle reviens
- Nantes area: Bout’ à bout
- Toulouse area: Consign’up