World, Europe

Garbage collectors' walkout causes Paris trash nightmare

Volume of garbage rotting on Parisian streets on decline after peak of nearly 10,000 tons, according to official figures

Nur Asena Erturk  | 28.03.2023 - Update : 30.03.2023
Garbage collectors' walkout causes Paris trash nightmare Garbage cans overflowing with trash on the streets as workers go on strike in Paris, France on March 21, 2023. ( Firas Abdullah - Anadolu Agency )


A walkout by French garbage collectors has left urban sanitation services in disarray, particularly in Paris, since March 6.

Garbage collectors in Paris walked out on the job on March 6 to protest the French government's pension reform plan and then extended the strike several times, causing up to 10,000 tons of garbage to lay rotting in the streets surrounded by rats, according to media reports.

Paris' municipal authorities provide garbage collection services in half of the city's 20 districts, while private companies operate in the others, with the waste incinerated in three plants.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo has voiced support for the striking workers, with government officials accusing her of inaction.

During the first week of the walkout, 5,400 tons of uncollected garbage were recorded on the streets as of March 12.

After garbage workers extended their walkout until March 20, the trash piled up by March 15 to total 7,600 tons.

The same day, Paris police chief Laurent Nunez moved to requisition garbage workers upon the order of Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Mayor Hidalgo refused to comply with the request, causing a row between her and the government.

Paris police took action on March 16, forcing 674 garbage collectors back to work to provide cleaning operations.

Violent protests erupted that day after President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne decided to use special constitutional powers to adopt the pension reform plan by force, without parliamentary consent.

Violent groups set fire to dumpsters and garbage piles in the impromptu demonstrations that lasted until March 19.

Two days later, garbage workers extended their walkout until March 27, with Hidalgo creating a crisis unit "to ensure the continuity of public services."

Workers in two incineration plants decided to end their strike on March 24, but the third plant had to be requisitioned.

The Paris municipality kept a record of the volume of the garbage, which showed a slight decrease, with the total amount going down from 9,800 tons on March 25 to 7,000 tons on March 28, ahead of a rally in the city.

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