With a small rectangular bucket in her hand, Charlotte walks hurriedly with her child Abigaël. Before returning home, mother and daughter stop in front of a brown metal dumpster. Framed by large wooden planters, it lets out a pungent smell. Using her phone, Charlotte opens the terminal and Abigaël dumps the food waste into it.
For a year, this 41-year-old Parisian has been sorting vegetable peelings, pieces of bread, leftover meat or fish, wilted flowers, to throw them away once a week at a “voluntary drop-off point”. Charlotte and Abigaël don’t necessarily know it, but they got ahead of the law. Because from January 1, 2024, individuals and businesses will have the obligation to sort their organic waste. “It was the ecological gesture that motivated me,” explains this mother. And then, these trash cans have grown a lot in the neighborhood. »
Since the beginning of March, eight of these skips have been dotted around the Parisian Place des Droits-de-l’Enfant (14th arr.), within a radius of 500 meters. All bear the logo of La République des Hyper Voisins, the association behind the project. Launched in 2017, it promotes conviviality on an ultralocal scale, with ecological transition as its backbone. This Thursday evening, she is on duty in a local café. Faithful people and new registrants introduce themselves.
Dialogue between neighbors
63-year-old retiree and founder of Hyper Voisins, Patrick Bernard is seated on the terrace. It offers consumption to anyone who wishes it, records the contact details of future users, then provides the access code to the sorting terminals, buckets and composting bags. A young business manager dad is succeeded by an osteopath, joined by a forty-year-old. Dialogue begins between these neighbors who do not know each other, but share the same desire: to limit their waste in the black bin.
The idea is not new. At the end of the first confinement, the collective contacted the start-up Les Alchimistes – specialized in the collection and transformation of bio-waste – and the town hall, to install four wooden bins closed with a code padlock. The success was immediate and 300 households got involved.
To expand the system, the four original terminals were replaced and four others installed. Enough to allow nearly a thousand households to benefit from it, free of charge. Access is now via a badge or via a mobile application. At the beginning of October, 865 households were registered, from students to the elderly. “Proximity is the adhesion factor. The easier the gesture, the more natural it is,” assures Patrick Bernard. “I approached a collective composter, but there were hours to be held. I did not have the time. There, it’s right next to my house, there’s nothing to do and I can go there at any time,” says Pierre, 33, who came to the registration session.
The Alchemists survey the eight markers twice a week. Between 3.5 and 4 tonnes are collected then transferred to their composting platforms. “A sursort is carried out by hand,” explains Mehdi Lassoued, employee of the start-up. A machine then grinds the material. Then, it is mixed with ground wood, before being placed in maturation bins for four months. » With the law of January 1, 2024 in the sights, the Hyper Neighbors experiment pushes the company to question itself: “We need to discuss what to do next. Do we also address local establishments that produce bio-waste? » asks Mehdi.
Exchange of advice
On the terrace, Patrick Bernard continues to hand out the sorting instructions. “Should we put a bag? Close it? » asks Colette, an elegant lady with gray hair. ” You do as you want. Some pour the contents of the bucket and wash it when they come home,” replies the former journalist, who takes the opportunity to encourage the resident to join the collective’s WhatsApp group dedicated to zero waste. A conversation where neighbors exchange advice. “I’m trying to convince the town hall that we can create a link by responding to the issue of bio-waste,” maintains the president, never short of ideas to keep his association alive. And he assures, with a smirk: “People became friends around a trash can. »
What are the recipes for the success of the La République des Hyper Voisins association?
- Municipal support. At the start of 2023, the association received a municipal grant of €31,000 to finance collections for one year. It also benefits from eight low-cost parking spaces where the bins are located.
- A favored return to the land. Biowaste is recycled in the inner suburbs of Paris. Thus, the compost is sold to Ile-de-France farmers and individuals.
- A link vector. The clinics are organized three times a week in a café to welcome new registrants. The opportunity for the founder to encourage meetings between residents.