Finding out the local system for waste collection is one of those easily overlooked essentials when moving into your new French property. From garbage pickup schedules and ordures menagéres taxes to rules and obligations on recycling—here’s what you need to know about refuse collection in France.
Waste Collection Services in France
Most cities, towns, and rural areas in France have waste collection services organized by the local commune. Waste collection typically takes place once a week, and an annual or bi-annual calendar will be issued by the commune, indicating the collection days (it’s worth double-checking these as they can change year to year, or sometimes even within the same year). Although these calendars are typically distributed to each household, it is your responsibility as a homeowner or renter to keep track of these days and ensure your waste bins are left at the correct location on the correct day.
Depending on the size and organization of the village, town or city, the refuse collection may also be timed weekly or even less regularly according to need and distance from the point of disposal.
Most communes provide waste bins (conteneurs poubelles or bacs à poubelle) free of charge for each property (some communes may require you to purchase these), while apartments typically provide a room or outdoor area with communal waste bins. In more remote rural areas, there may also be designated waste collection areas at a central location or larger bins that serve several properties.
To find out about the waste collection services and schedules in your area, you should contact your local Mairie.
Local Taxes: Ordures Menageres or Refuse Collection
Along with the other property taxes, all homeowners are required to pay a local tax known as the Taxe d’Enlèvement des Ordures Ménagères (TEOM). This is the equivalent of a refuse collection fee, although it is organized in a slightly different configuration from what you may be used to. The TEOM is usually included in the taxe fonciére (indicated with the letters TEOM on your bill) or can arrive in a separate bill, once or even twice a year.
The amount of the fee is calculated in two parts. The fixed portion is calculated in the same way as the taxe foncière on 50% of the estimated letting value of the property or valeur locative cadastrale. The variable portion is calculated according to the aggregate volume and nature of the refuse collected and can be allocated in proportion to the number of occupants of the property.
TEOM or REOM?
As an alternative, some communes choose not to apply the TEOM and collect a REOM (Redevance d’Enlèvement des Ordures Ménagères) tax instead. The fee is calculated on the same basis as the variable part of the TEOM and can be payable to the commune or directly to the provider of the service.
The objective of the REOM option is to give smaller rural villages more autonomy to find the system that best addresses their needs and an incentive to put into place local initiatives to reduce the amount of waste produced by each household or business property, as the reduction in volume can immediately result in cost savings.
TEOM on holiday or second homes
This TEOM fee is discretionary, and the commune can decide whether to levy it directly or pay the service from the commune’s budget. While the Mairie can determine that a property is outside the perimeter of the collection area and therefore exempt from the payment, the homeowner can’t opt-out of the service unilaterally, so even if you don’t want the service or won’t be using it for any reason, you’ll still have to pay for it unless the Mairie determines that you are exempt.
In some cases, the commune will approve a reduction from this tax for properties that are used as holiday homes, so if you find that the TEOM is expensive in your area, it may be worth checking with your Mairie if your holiday property qualifies for a discount.
TEOM on rental properties
If you let out your property, you can recover the Ordures Ménagères tax from the tenant by adding it to the monthly rent, although as the owner of the property, you remain directly liable in case of non-payment. For renters, this will typically be included in the ‘charges’ that are added to or included in your rental fee. For properties that are exonerated from the taxe foncière, the exception will also apply to the TEOM.
Managing Your Household Waste in France
In France, there are strict rules over the kind of waste which can be disposed of in your household waste bin. Typically this is limited to food waste and non-recyclable items that can fit in standard-sized bin bags. All garbage deposited in your waste bin should be secured in sealed bags and must fit within your waste bin.
Large items, recyclable items, and green waste (such as grass cuttings) are not permitted within your waste bins. Waste collection services will often refuse to collect your waste if you do not follow the rules, and while a one-off mistake will probably be tolerated, repeated offences will likely be reported to the Mairie and fines applied.
Recycling and Yellow Bags/Bins
Each homeowner or renter in France is responsible for organizing their household waste into non-recyclable waste (ordures ménagères classiques), which goes in your property’s general waste bin, and recyclable waste (déchets recyclables), which is collected separately.
Waste collection services often operate on different days for collecting your general waste and your recyclable waste, so be sure to check both dates on your calendar. Recycled waste is often collected less regularly, typically once every two weeks.
Depending on your commune, you will typically either be issued either a yellow recycling bin (bac jaune) or yellow recycling bags (sacs jaunes) in which to collect your recyclable household waste. You may need to pay for these, or they may be issued free of charge by your Mairie (in the case of yellow bags, there may be a set amount issued per household before you have to pay).
The kind of items that can be placed in these recycling bins and bags are also restricted, typically including items such as cardboard, plastic bottles, and cans, but not glass, green waste, paper, or large items.
Your local Mairie will be able to advise you on the recycling policies in your region, and they should have detailed lists available of what is and isn’t accepted.
Any items that are not allowed within your household general or recycled waste will need to be taken to a déchetterie, a waste tip or recycling centre. This includes green and garden waste (including grass cuttings), large plastic items and cardboard boxes, glass items, general household items or furniture, metal items, and electrical goods. It’s your responsibility to dispose of these items, although collection services may be available for a fee —ask at your local Mairie or déchetterie for more information.
Read more about this in our article Visiting the Déchetterie in France: Waste and Recycling Centres
Own a Property or Second Home in France?
Our Essential Reading articles cover everything you need to know as a French homeowner from property taxes and home insurance to paying your bills. Perhaps you also need recommendations on removals to France, advice on building and renovations, or tips for managing a second home? FrenchEntrée is here to help! We can even advise on selling your French property.