Recycling centers filled to the brim until the fire, illegal export of tons of garbage… Justice has struck organized waste crime in the Southeast by proceeding with eleven indictments, the prosecution said on Thursday May 12. from Marseille.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, five natural persons were indicted “Heads of management, transport, export and irregular abandonment of waste in an organized gang, fraud in an organized gang and regulatory violations”, detailed the prosecution in a press release. Two of them have been remanded in custody. Six companies were also indicted as legal persons.

The five indicted must also answer for the irregular operation of a classified installation (waste center) and destruction by fire, added the Marseille prosecutor’s office. Indeed the starting point of the investigation, carried out by the Central Office for the Fight against Damage to the Environment and Public Health (Oclaesp), is the fire that occurred in August 2020 in a waste disposal center in Milhaud, in le Gard, managed by Benne 30.

“The investigations concerning the origin of the fire but also the conditions of storage and treatment of waste with regard to the regulations (…) made it possible to highlight several irregularities, in particular with regard to the volumes stored”, explained the parquet. After the fire, despite a formal notice from the prefect to reduce the volume of its waste, the company “continued its activity by receiving new waste”.

A “mafia system”

The operation, carried out as part of a judicial investigation opened at the end of 2021, was carried out in Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard and Vaucluse, mobilizing more than sixty gendarmes and leading to eleven searches in total. According to the Marseille public prosecutor’s office, more than 26,000 tonnes of waste were illegally exported between October 2020 and February 2021 by this company, particularly in Spain, while some waste “could have been the subject of wild landfills”.

“Several storage sites, rented sheds that have become sheds filled with waste, operated to store waste there through several other companies, have been discovered in Gard, Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme and Vaucluse “, describes the prosecution, speaking of “irregular conditions due to the volume and nature of the waste”.

The investigation is aimed in particular at a recent fire, which had mobilized elected officials and activists at the beginning of the year: that of the sorting center of the company Recyclage Concept 13, in Saint-Chamas, near Marseille. The blaze, which lasted more than a month, caused air pollution worthy of Beijing’s, according to air quality watchdog AtmoSud, angering residents and elected officials.

In March, Richard Hardouin, president of France Nature Environnement in the Bouches-du-Rhône, denounced a “mafia system”, assuring that these companies “have no intention of respecting the law: it would break their economic model which is ‘buying waste at low prices and then burying it instead of sorting and recovering it’.


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