Communities Field Note

Working Hard to Keep the Streets Clean in France

Abstract: Solid waste has been a huge problem recently all around the world. We have been producing more waste and not recycling enough. This has led to environmental disasters, like the “Great Pacific garbage patch”. It is a build-up of plastic and other types of recyclable garbage occupying an area the size of Texas! Garbage that is not cared for is becoming a deadly threat to animals on land and fish in the sea as well as for us humans.

IntroductionHow do nations meet their communities’ needs? 

While France has been one of the more successful countries when dealing with garbage, it still has many problems. The French, along with many other Europeans, generally feel very strongly about keeping their environment clean and healthy. While things were different just 20 years ago, France has come a long way in setting up recycling systems and promoting a clean environment for its people.

What community need did I learn about?

Recycling and reducing waste is very important in France. Together with the European Union, France has set goals to lower its level of waste and pollution to make its streets, forests, beaches, farms, sky and water safe for everyone. That includes humans, plants and animals! Now, France ranks very high in the world in terms of its efforts to reduce pollution and increase recycling and a clean environment.

Why does the community have this need? 

There are many reasons why the French value their environment and recycle to keep it clean. France is the most visited country in the world thanks not only to its long and interesting past, but also because of its natural beauty. In the French Riviera, many people come from all over the world to relax on the sunny beaches. Many tourists also like to visit the lavender fields of Provence or ski on the Alps. The French have realized that their environment is very important not only to them, but to the world also! A lot of work is needed to keep it clean and pristine.

The French also focus a great deal on eco-friendly living. French food is known for being natural and unprocessed, and the French like to eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. In the supermarkets, you can often find long aisles of “bio” products. “Bio” indicates that it is food made without chemicals in factories that do not create too much pollution. Many people here also drive cars that have good gas mileage and that do not use a large amount of fuel.

Keeping the environment clean isn’t easy, however. In Menton specifically, natural waste from animals is becoming a problem. Some owners of their pets are not doing enough to clean up after their dogs on the street. When the government tried to enforce the police to encourage these pet owners to clean up after their dogs, some pet owners threatened not to reelect the current mayor of Menton during the next election. As a result, Menton’s government has stopped these efforts.

Is this need being met? How?

To combat waste, France has set up a large recycling system. There are many large containers located around cities that are marked with colors: green for verre (glass), blue for plastique/aluminium (plastic and aluminum) and yellow for papier/cartonnette (paper and cardboard). People living in the city are expected to recycle in their homes and then put their separated items into these containers for recycling. There are also many cartoons and slogans on recyclable items that motivate you to recycle them when you’ve finished using them.

Other factors have also been important in avoiding waste. Most supermarkets charge $0.05 – $0.30 for each plastic bag, and encourage you to bring your own canvas bag or reusable plastic bags. Many people drink tap water as it is considered clean and reduces plastic usage.

However, most recycling and reducing waste is done by the government’s efforts in motivating the French to do something about the environment. There are sometimes concerts with great musical artists that perform but require audiences to donate a used electronic item that can be recycled. Two years ago, one such concert resulted in 970 pounds of used electronics ranging from televisions to cell phones (!

Recycling centers also do their part to promote the cleanliness of the environment. They are always finding new ways to make recycling easier, and innovative! One example of this are horse-drawn carts and carriages can sometimes be seen collecting garbage and recyclable items from the streets. Those who support this say that it is a cleaner way to collect waste instead of garbage trucks that are noisy and themselves produce pollution. With France’s need and focus on recycling and reducing waste, many keep thinking of great ideas to help keep their environments spick and span.

Now, it’s your turn! What do you think of some of the ideas above? Would they be possible and helpful to have where you live? Can you think of other creative ways to help keep our environment clean? How do you recycle?


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