Street cleaning in France - an overview

21st of January 2015
Street cleaning in France - an overview

From France, ECJ reporter Christian Bouzols offers an insight into street cleaning and refuse collection in Paris.

They are to be seen every day in the streets of Paris, holding a broom or a water hose. Always dressed in green, the ‘éboueurs’ work all year round to keep the streets of the French capital clean. A visit to the Division de Propreté of the 14th Arrondissement will give an insight into how they operate.

The Division de Propreté of the 14th Arrondissement has a staff of 330, of whom 280 are éboueurs, including 20 women. The éboueurs combine the work of street cleaners and refuse collectors. Their work is very well organised so that the goals of urban waste management and hygiene can be met.

They operate under an eight-week turnover schedule which involves them working short hours (6.00 am to 12.15 pm) on some days, and long hours (6.00 am to 5.00 pm) on others. Under that schedule, there are never fewer than 120 éboueurs on the ground at any one time during the day.

“The street cleaners make it on foot to their designated workplace, says Laureline Autes, head of the Division de Propreté. This means they don’t all start their work at the same place. The aim here is to enable them to be as close as possible to their place of work at the beginning of their shift.”

Their duties change every day, which brings diversity to their work. Household waste collection takes place in the morning and is completed by noon. Afternoons are normally dedicated to street sweeping and general cleaning, which includes the cleaning out of street markets. These are held every day except Thursdays.

Collection of bulky waste, the only activity in which women don’t take part, is normally carried out by appointment with the residents concerned. However, only 40 per cent of the citizens take the trouble to call the Division to have this service carried out free of charge. The others are content with just leaving their waste in the street.

Training- Before taking up their duties, the éboueurs undergo initial training at the Ecole de la Propreté in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris. Once they’ve  become civil servants, they undergo an additional series of theoretical and practical classes for 15 days. They then start their work, guided by a tutor for a variable period of time until they have acquired good techniques.

Insecurity – During their working day, éboueurs are sometimes the target of verbal abuse and even physical assault. This can happen when their dust carts block streets or make noise. “We do our best to run our dust carts early in the morning in busy streets in order to avoid traffic jams”, explains Laureline Autes. “But then, we can’t operate too early because we would be getting complaints for noise pollution. Also, we need to be vigilant at dawn on Saturdays and Sundays, when people start leaving nightclubs.”

In addition, éboueurs have to face the rudeness of some local residents, particularly in the form of rubbish being thrown into the streets from upper floors once the éboueurs have cleaned them, which can be very disheartening. In Paris as elsewhere, there is much to be done in terms of civic education…


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