“Leaving waste is a crime”

“Leaving waste is a crime”

According to a 2022 Senate report, illegal open-air landfills increased by 85% between 2017 and 2021 in France. Do you notice it?

We estimate that there are 100,000 unauthorized landfills in France. We are constantly contacted on this subject by local residents or communities.

Why this increase?

It is mainly for cost reasons that construction companies working illegally do not want to pay to recycling centers. Construction is the sector that produces the most waste. There is also a lack of nearby recycling centers open at reasonable hours.

Is this such a new phenomenon?

No. Our association was born in 1985. Old landfills were forgotten, vegetation grew back. People sometimes buy land without knowing that a mountain of waste is buried there. This is the case in Moselle. We advised the owner to file a complaint against the town hall. By searching the local press, we saw that she knew. There was therefore a hidden defect. While investigating another plot, we discovered buried oil spill waste. Landfills can reappear, like the Samaritaine in Lingreville (Manche). Everyone has been throwing their waste there since 1960. Covered with sand in the 1990s, it reappeared after a storm in 2016.

What are the consequences ?

Multiple and serious. For fauna, flora, waterways, human health… Near Colmar (Haut-Rhin), a place concentrated wrecks, tires and garbage. A fire broke out in June 2023, mobilizing 115 firefighters. Air and rail traffic was interrupted and residences evacuated.

What do you advise those who contact you?

They need to notify the mayor and the prefect. The mayor must ensure sanitation in the territory of his municipality. He can charge the waste dealer for the cleaning, or impose a fine. As soon as he becomes aware of the offense, the mayor must inform the public prosecutor or the police commissioner. Littering is an offense. Since the green industry law of October 2023, the State has doubled the sanctions, up to four years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros. As for the prefect, he must act and replace the mayor in certain cases.

It is wise to send letters to the mayors with a copy to the prefecture to inform and start a dialogue. We rarely file complaints. We did it for a case in Saint-Aubin-sur-Quillebeuf (Eure). We were in a regional park, a wetland, and had a lot of evidence from our investigation. The owner rented his land to construction companies so that they deposited waste, which tumbled down the cliff and fell into the Seine.

Why don't mayors always act?

For lack of money. It is often necessary to finance an investigation: what depth of waste? What fire risk? Then you have to clean and rehabilitate the place.

How to find polluters?

Waste calls for waste. As soon as a deposit appears, we recommend installing cameras and photo traps nearby.

What can the citizen do?

There are volunteer cleanliness brigades, such as in Metz (Moselle) and Alfortville (Val-de-Marne). Or operations like Les galopins du Fezensac (Gers), which encourage the collection of waste during a running race.

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