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Burning Garden Waste in France

Wednesday 03 June 2020

What are the regulations in France concerning the burning of garden waste?

The sight and smell of smoke from smouldering garden waste in the countryside in France is not uncommon, but the use of domestic bonfires to eliminate waste is generally outlawed.

The practice is prohibited both for health reasons and for the potential nuisance that it causes to neighbours.

However, although the legal basis for the ban is set out in statute law, some discretion is left to local prefets and mayors as to how it is adopted and enforced.

The general ban is enshrined in standard (model) departmental health regulations issued by central government, which stipulates that open-air burning of household and other waste using is prohibited.

Thus, Article 84 of règlement sanitaire départemental dating from 1978 states:

'Tout dépôt sauvage d’ordures ou de détritus de quelque nature que ce soit ainsi que toute décharge brute d’ordures ménagères sont interdits.'

This model regulation is implemented by the local prefet, who is permitted to derogate from it, with the standard regulation stating:

'Des dérogations à la règle pourront cependant être accordées par le préfet sur proposition de l’autorité sanitaire et après avis du conseil départemental d’hygiène.'

In practice, only in departments where there is a large urban population, a protected natural park or particular climatic conditions (hot weather, strong winds) is there a general, permanent ban for reasons of public safety and health.

In a small number of cases, burning of garden waste may be permitted where there is no local recycling centre to take the waste, although this is now rare.

Consent is also permitted where there is an obligation of border and garden maintenance (débroussaillement) in designated areas where there is a risk of forest fires, although though there will be restrictions on when it can take place etc. You can read more about this at Obligation of Garden and Grounds Maintenance.

The same applies to those areas where a risk plan for forest fires in is place (plan de prévention des risques incendie de forêt - PPRif), although they generally cover the same areas above.

Elsewhere, the ban may apply at different times of the year and hours of the day. In particular, the burning of garden waste may only be permitted in the winter months.

The local regulation may also stipulate safety procedures that must be adopted, and/or that prior notification must be given to the local mayor.

The regulations will also favour composting or mulching of green waste.

In short, each department has its own health regulations, and the only way of finding out the rule that applies in your commune is to go on-line or speak to the local mayor.

During the present Covid-19 crisis it would be unusual if any local prefet or mayor permitted any kind of buring of garden waste.

Breach of the regulation can lead to a fine of €450.

There are separate rules concerning agricultural and forestry operations.

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