Recycle, Please don’t just throw everything in the garbage

Zero waste

There’s a Zero waste boutique in Paris, 3 rue Charles Nodier 75018, which proposes ateliers, information, products and ideas for moving your day to day towards zero waste. The association Zero waste France which runs the boutique has all kinds of different campaigns to reduce waste most of them are initiatives to not use containers or distribute flyers in the first place. The association is also a great place to volunteer or make monetary a contribution.

But sometimes we have waste, we have to get rid of things no longer useful to us. So here’s some ideas as to how to clean up and clean out by sending things you are don’t with to either proper disposal facilities or recycle and pass them on to others who just might find your garage to be just what they need.

Please don’t just throw everything in the garbage – recycle

Some items need a few minutes reflection for proper waster disposal and to recycle. For example according to Eco-Systemes one refrigerator that is not recycled emits (due to the Chlorofluorocarbon or CFC gasses it contains) as much CO2 as a car in a year. CFCs released into the atmosphere when a refrigerator is not recycled have a lifespan of 55-400 years. They reach the stratosphere where they are broken under the action of ultraviolet light. They then release their chlorine. A single chlorine atom can destroy over 100,000 ozone molecules. CFC emissions are responsible for 80% of total depletion of stratospheric ozone.

That’s why certain products, like refrigerators and many others that we have finished using need to be recycled or disposed of properly so that they don’t pollute. Here is a list of ways to send no longer used items to their proper waste disposal place and some times you can avoid fines and even cash-in on more than just feeling good about having done your part.

One organization called Envie will repair your item or repair, guarantee and resell donated items. So it is a good place to donate or shop for second hand. This group also does job training as well as recycling.

Mobile phones: Sell them to a recycler who will either recondition them for resale or recycle the components. donates any value to an association of your choice. Apple and other sellers give credit towards a new phone or devices when an old one is turned in.


Eyeglasses: Prescription glasses and sunglasses are needed elsewhere and can be recycled into a second life. Bring them into an Optic 2000 shop or give them to the Ordre de Malte who will redistribute them to people in need. Read here how they organize the redistribution to people who need glasses by matching a donated pair of glasses to someone needing just that prescription.

Leftover or expired medicines (and their packaging), Syringes: Medications contain active molecules which need to be destroyed properly with a special incineration method to avoid becoming pollution. It is suspected that some emerging illnesses such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue as well as the multiplication of cancers are due to pollutants in the earth and water coming from medicines flushed down the toilet or put in the garbage. Bring all leftover medications in their packages back to the pharmacy who will dispose of them properly so they do not contaminate soil and water via landfill leaching. 23,000 tons of medications are used in France each year, in 2013 just 14,730 tons were returned to the pharmacy. Throw empty blister packs in the household garbage and recycle empty boxes. For syringes ask for a disposal box at your pharmacy. Then return the box to them when it is full.

Cosmetics and Hygiene Packaging Monoprix stores now have recycle bins for items that often can’t be thrown into municipal recycle bins. The items they accept are beauty product and cosmetic containers, toothbrushes, disposable razors and razor blades. TerraCycle will use these items to make garden equipment. The project is sponsored by L’Oréal, Signal, and Gillette, but you can recycle products from any brand. Also of note: l’Occitane and Lush both recycle their own packaging and give you an incentive to bring the empty containers back.

Photo X-rays (not numeric) contain silver salts that take 300 years to degrade in nature. Best to take old x-rays back to an x-ray technician or hospital and if they won’t take them they should be brought to a waste management site. Some associations collect them.

Artist’s paintbrushes: take old brushes to Le Géant des Beaux Arts who offers a 20% discount on a new brush for every old brush brought in!

Printer cartridges can be refilled or sent back to the manufacturer. Look at the manufacturer’s website for details. Usually you can print a pre-paid postage label online and it costs you nothing but your time.

Books: Give your English language books to Bill & Rosa’s Book Room. Contact to arrange a pick up if you have 30+ or to drop them off near M° Porte de Saint Cloud. If you have more than 100 French books contact Recyclivre  or Emmaüs who will pick your books up!

Corks: If you are not saving them for a project like a trivet or bulletin board, collect them and turn them in to Nicolas wine shops who will recycle them via the building industry. Nicolas takes synthetic and real corks. Proceeds go towards the handicapped or planting more cork trees (chênes-liège) of which there are not enough. Cork is actually the bark cut off these particular oak trees which need to grow 35 years before the bark is thick enough to be harvested for the first time, then 10 years before the following harvest. Learn more and find a map of participating stores here. Watch cork being harvested in this video from Planeteliege – this process does not harm the trees.

Clothing: Donate still wearable clothing or shoes to an English-speaking church for their fund raiser bazaar, to Emmaüs or World Wildlife fund via collection boxes you find on street corners.

Computers or other electronics: if you buy a new electronic or electric item in France the store is under obligation to take back the old one whether it is functional or not. If you have an old item that is still in working order try giving it to Emmaüs, Restos du Cœur or Antanak. These organizations recondition them then put them back to work.

recycleToys can be donated to Rejoue in 14 Rue du Général Humbert Paris 14th who creates jobs by collecting toys, cleaning, disinfecting, reconditioning them and then selling them at 50-70% less than new toys. They also have opportunities for volunteers.

Furniture, appliances and other large items: Place an ad in FUSAC to sell items that still have life in them, donate them to Emmaüs’s solidarity shops but if they really are trash sign up on les encombrants de Paris or call 3975 to arrange for curbside pickup and proper disposal. You can be fined if you simply deposit these items on the sidewalk without calling for pickup.

Izidore: Is the new online « garage sale » or vide-appartement. It is a secure way to buy and sell used furniture online. Sellers post a photo of a room and designate everything in it that’s for sale with a virtual price tag. Sales are shown on a map as well and you can search by specific items such as canapé-lit or table. Some sellers offer extra discounts if you choose several items. You visit the apartment online, pay via the site then go get your purchase. The only drawback is not being able to thoroughly inspect the item up close before buying, but the site does mention that if you are not satisfied you’ll be reimbursed, but it isn’t clear how this works. The site works on commission instead of flat fees, so you only pay if you sell your items. It also allows you to group all of your items together, so you can take a photo of a room So simple when you’re clearing out a whole apartment. IZiDore’s name includes Z.D. for Zéro Déchets!

Smaller households items, objects, toys: Set up a stand at the vide grenier of your neighborhood. This site organizes the sales and lists upcoming events. Get organized in advance though, the table space is limited at these usually springtime events.

Icky stuff or chemical waste: empty or partially full cans of paint, cooling liquids, varnish, white-spirit, solvents, pesticides and their containers, etc. All this icky stuff that pollutes the environment should be taken to a déchetterie or waste collection center and not thrown out with your trash. Keep an eye out for when the déchetterie comes to you. For example in Boulogne-Billancourt residents can deposit their items in a designated spot near home on a designated day each month then the city does the transportation.

Fluorescent light bulbs, mobile phones, small electronics and batteries: Eco-systèmes, a recycling company for anything that is labeled DEEE with a crossed out garbage can for a pictogram has put collection bins in place at 5500+ supermarkets, electronics and hardware stores in France. Eco-Systemes has a handy tool for helping you to know what to drop off where linked to your postal code. Just click the pictogram of the item you want to dispose of, put in your post code and you’ll get a map of drop off locations. The website also will help you figure out what to do with larger items by asking you three questions then proposing solutions for repairing, passing the item forward or recycling sites.

Vehicles: It is now possible to get rid of unrepairable vehicles for free. European governments recently declared mandatory the removal of junk vehicles. In France, is one recycling and demolition center that is officially approved. They will pick up your wreck, take it apart, recycle what they can and clean up the pollutants.

Animal items: beds, blankets, toys. Donate them to the Animal Protection organization or drop them off at a Maxi Zoo store which usually has a donation bin.

And when that season rolls around here’s what to do with your Christmas tree. Since it can cost you up to 100€ in fines if you just drop your tree off on the sidewalk it is important to know where to take it. A natural tree without spray-on-snow or glitter and not in a bag can be composted and the cities usually have a collection spot for these. In Paris there are 100 places, see the list here. But don’t tarry as these collection points are only open until mid-January. Keep in mind that an artificial Christmas tree must be used at least 20 years to compensate for its environmental footprint.

Just about anything can be passed on to someone else who will reuse it. Have a look at Donnons  or where people place ads for things they need to get rid of and others recoup the items – for free. They have categories for household stuff, houseplants, animal items, creative or decorating materials and tons of others.


What does go into your household waste can? styrofoam, wall paper, plastic bags, yogurt containers, plastic wraps, plastic pens, candles… and if you have a doubt otherwise it is best to put the item in the household waste can rather than in the recycling can. Paris and many surrounding cities incinerate waste and create energy, so at least it doesn’t end up in a landfill.

In conclusion here is a list of the waste collection centers in Paris. Any Paris resident (non-commercial) can drop off items at these centers for free. Access is for some suburbanites too depending on which town you reside in. Be sure to bring ID and proof of residency.

CVAE Quai d’Issy les Moulineaux (déchèterie)
Sous l’échangeur du quai d’Issy du périphérique, voie AD15 75015 PARIS
Access for residents of Paris, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Sèvres, Boulogne-Billancourt and Vanves

CVAE Poterne des Peupliers (déchèterie)
8, rue Jacques Destrée 75013 PARIS
Access for residents of Paris, Ivry-sur-Seine, Kremlin-Bicêtre and Gentilly

CVAE de la Porte des Lilas (déchèterie)
11 rue Paul Meurice 75020 PARIS
Access for residents of Paris

CVAE de la Porte de la Chapelle (déchèterie)
17 avenue de la porte de la chapelle 75018 PARIS
Access for residents of Paris, Saint-Ouen and Saint-Denis

But if you do have things to throw in the garbage there will always be the gleaners. The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda is a year 2000 film about those living off the things thrown away by others.  In a 2014 Sight and Sound poll, film critics voted The Gleaners and I the eighth best documentary film of all time. The trailer