What is the law on burning waste in my French garden?

Question from the reader: I want to get rid of some bags of garden waste but I have read that it is not allowed to burn them. Is it correct?

French law prohibits residents from lighting a fire in their garden to dispose of bio-waste such as leaves, plants or grass clippings.

This applies to both outdoor bonfires and garden incinerators, as part of a 2020 right relating to the fight against waste and the promotion of a circular economy.

Biowaste includes food scraps, cooking oils, and other biodegradable waste that can be broken down by microorganisms like bacteria.

The reasons for the ban on burning garden waste are:

  • Burning bio-waste releases harmful gases, especially if wet or burned with plastic or solvents. Emissions include NOx gases, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and hazardous particulates which may be carcinogenic to humans
  • Burning garbage creates an unpleasant odor and smoke that may disturb your neighbors
  • Garden fires increase the risk of accidental fires, especially in the dry summer months

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Your local town hall may allow you to burn yard waste if:

  • There is no public dump in the area
  • Collection services do not cover this type of waste
  • You need to start a fire to eliminate plant pests or invasive plant species

“In exceptional cases and only for the eradication of epiphytes or the elimination of invasive plant species, individual exemptions may be issued by the State representative in the department. [in question],” the Environmental Code States.

Those who burn garden waste without permission face a fine of €450 or more.

If the fire causes a particular nuisance to a neighbour, the latter may also claim damages from the person at fault.

What are the alternatives to the bonfire?

State authorities suggest that people wishing to dispose of yard waste consider:

  • compost it
  • Take it to a public dump
  • Organization of the collection by a door-to-door service
  • Mulch it

You can find out more about the possibilities available to you by contacting your municipality or by consulting the website. Here you should be able to find information about collection days.

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