French bin strike: Paris holds its nose as waste piles up

The bins are overflowing in large areas of Paris a week into a strike by waste collectors, with thousands of tonnes of rubbish sitting abandoned on the streets of the French capital.

“It’s dirty, it attracts rats and cockroaches,” one Parisian complained on French radio.

The workers are striking over the Macron government’s proposals to raise the pension age from 62 to 64.

Other cities including Nantes, Rennes and Le Havre are also affected.

Refuse collectors joined the pension strikes a week ago and the Paris authority says half of the city’s districts, which are covered by council workers, have been hit by the action. Three waste treatment sites have been blockaded and a fourth partially closed.

On Monday, the Paris authority said 5,600 tonnes of waste had yet to be collected.

One commentator on Europe1 radio described the situation as an all-you-can-eat buffet for the six million rats of Paris, double the human population.

In the 10 districts covered by private companies the service was running almost normally, Paris council said. Some reports indicated activists were trying to prevent collections from going ahead.

And one private company was also seen on Monday night by news channel BFMTV picking up waste in one of the big central districts, the sixth, which is normally covered by council workers. Similar bin collections were going on in two other districts on the western fringe of the city.

Leading council official Emmanuel Grégoire said the situation was complicated but the authority was prioritising intervention for public safety, with a focus on clearing food markets, bin bags lying on the ground and ensuring pedestrian safety.

“The strike triggers a change in rat behaviour,” specialist Romain Lasseur told Le Parisien newspaper. “They’ll rummage around in bins, reproduce there, and leave their urine and droppings. We have a worrying health risk for refuse collectors and the general population.”



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