‘I faced prison for plastic in wrong recycling bag’

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Malcolm Curtis - [email protected]
‘I faced prison for plastic in wrong recycling bag’
Advertising to promote the garbage "tax" regulations introduced in the canton of Vaud. Photo: Canton of Vaud

Recycling rules in the canton of Vaud are strict, as one resident threatened with prison recently found out to his cost.


Patrick Dufour, a 57-year-old resident of Ecublens, near Lausanne, was fined 250 francs ($275) after a plastic (PET) bottle was found in a bag otherwise filled with paper that he put out to be recycled, Le Matin reported on Tuesday.

The insurance professional received the fine, the same as that handed out for motorists who run a red light, after a hearing in September before a police commission, the newspaper reported.

Dufour, who professes to be conscientious about recycling, maintains that on May 20th he left a bag full of paper next to a container for that purpose that was overflowing with other bags.

The public works department later contacted him after discovering plastic in the bag and finding his name and address from discarded envelopes.

“I had apparently only two choices, pay (a fine) or spend two days in prison,” Dufour told Le Matin.

“I opted for a third opposition: to lodge an opposition,” he said.

“I was sure I would win: how could one imagine that I placed a PET bottle in a bag filled with envelopes on which my name and address were clearly visible? I’m not crazy.”

But the police commission did not accept his version of events and found him guilty.

Dufour believes another person must have placed the plastic in his bag of paper.

Le Matin contacted Christian Maeder, the municipal councillor responsible for the Ecublens public works department, who refused to take a position in the case, noting that it was a police decision.

“If (Dufour) is innocent, as he affirms, he can file an appeal.”

But Dufour told Le Matin he has already done the calculations and discovered he can’t afford that course of action.

“An appeal would cost me more than 1,000 francs, much more again if I hired a lawyer,” he said.

“I don’t have the means.”

He took his case to the media in a bid to show that he had been a victim of injustice and a “ridiculously” stubborn municipality. 

Most municipalities in the canton of Vaud introduced new "polluter pay" regulations in January intended to promote recycling.

The new rules charge a fee for garbage while encouraging residents to separate recyclables such as glass, plastic, paper and aluminium, as well as compostable kitchen waste. 



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