PARIS – The strike of cleaning workers in Paris against the amendment of the pension law enters its third week, and will continue - according to organizers - until March 27, with expectations of its renewal, which led to an unprecedented accumulation of garbage in the streets of the French capital, where garbage bags stretch meters and some end in burning due to frequent clashes between demonstrators and police officers.

It didn't take long to tarnish the image of one of the world's most beautiful and famous cities; in the first week, more than 5,10 tonnes of uncollected waste piled up on the streets, reaching a peak of more than <>,<> tonnes, according to the latest data from the Paris municipality and police headquarters.

Garbage piled on the side of a Paris street due to a strike of cleaners (Al Jazeera Net)

Endless crises

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, the Federal Secretary of Trade Unions "CGT" for public services Francois Levartovsky that the strikes continue until French President Emmanuel Macron reversed his controversial law, stressing that the strike of cleaners continues until next Monday.

Levartowski explained that the strike covers other sectors, including incineration and storage sites and sorting or processing centers, which are now almost suspended.

Trade unions see these strikes as a political pressure card on Macron's government, and are betting on their continuation and activation periodically, especially in the fields of energy (nuclear power plants, gas and fuel), transportation (metro, train and airport stations), as well as textile factories and others.

How local authorities manage waste collection in the capital seems to be doing little to ease the current crisis: public services or private companies are tasked with collecting almost 50 percent of waste in Paris, while public sector cleaners manage the rest, according to the federal secretary of trade unions.

Public services or private companies collect almost 50% of waste in Paris (Al Jazeera Net)

Private Companies

Since dawn on Monday, trucks belonging to private companies have arrived to collect waste in some areas, but they remain insufficient to solve the problem and are operating at a very slow pace.

Catalina (a supervisor of a building in the 16th arrondissement, which is located within the upscale areas of Paris) said that the street looks clean today, but it has not been so for the past two weeks, adding, "A private company recovered garbage last Tuesday evening, but we must thank the weekly market that forced them to come and do their work," according to her interview with Al Jazeera Net.

Agath, the owner of a flower shop in the same area, said that "the smell of fish waste after the end of the Tuesday market is unbearable, which prompted us and other shop owners here to pressure the municipality to send a truck at full speed."

A report published by France's Court of Auditors last year revealed that local authorities allocate only 1% of the total cost of the public service to waste management, including sorting and recycling.

Colombes-Brussel, deputy mayor and cleaner in charge, said in a tweet that waste collection remained "disrupted in all neighborhoods of Paris", adding that they were prioritizing safety-related interventions related to cleaning food markets, removing garbage bags on the ground and the safety of footpaths.

However, some workers in private companies have also been involved in the strike since it began, such as employees of the Pizzorno company, which is responsible for collecting waste in the 15th arrondissement, and to address this shortage, the company appealed to temporary workers and others from southern France.

But crossing this arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower area, it can be seen that a huge number of garbage bags are still piled on the sidewalks and waiting for their turn to be retrieved.

Local authorities allocate only 1% of the total cost of the public waste management service (Al Jazeera Net)

Marginalized areas

The mayor of the 17th arrondissement, Geoffrey Polar, revealed that the city of Paris has signed a contract with a private service provider to collect waste at night in certain areas affected by the strike, but it seems that some areas of the capital are still subject to blatant marginalization for reasons that may be related to tourist importance or perhaps societal class.

When you walk in the 17th arrondissement, for example, you will notice that it is divided into two different scenes: the streets near the Champs-Elysées, which are in the upscale areas, are free or almost free of garbage, and on the other side of the arrondissement, which is characterized by more popular neighborhoods, the smell of accumulated waste emanates for many meters.

Abdul Qadir (owner of a food shop) says, "I usually transfer the store's waste to a designated area, but the garbage trucks have not passed through here for two weeks to recover the garbage of the residents of the building, which affects my work directly, as some customers prefer to buy products from other places," he told Al Jazeera Net.

Paradoxically, the Paris district, dubbed the "Arab Quarter" because it has a large Arab community, is one of the capital's marginalized areas with a high rate of unemployment, has become almost empty of garbage bags simply because it falls within the privately run districts.

The city of Paris signed a contract with a private service provider to collect waste at night (Al Jazeera Net)

Health repercussions

In a related context, the mayor of the 6th arrondissement, Jean-Pierre Leacock, warned Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo in a letter last Friday of the "health risks" associated with not collecting and treating the accumulated waste.

But the president of the Union of Doctors in France, Dr. Jean-Paul Hamon, stressed that there are no serious health consequences due to waste, especially since the weather is cold or moderate, noting that there is "an exaggeration of the situation, which is unnecessary."

Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Hamon added that some expressed fear of the spread of rats and the transmission of diseases, "which is an unthinkable possibility and does not represent any risk to health because mice will not attack passers-by in the street," as he put it.

But the Academy of Medicine has warned since last summer about the danger that these rodents pose to human health in general.

France is on average in European countries in terms of waste production, with each Frenchman producing approximately 6 tons of household waste annually.

A number of other doctors have stated – via French media – that organic waste can produce toxic gases, such as sulfur, lead and carbon dioxide, because it begins to decompose after several days. The spread of bacteria in the air is also easy through the air in case of strong winds, high temperature or humidity.

For his part, the president of the Union of Doctors in France explained that the only danger at the moment lies in the burning of waste during demonstrations, noting that "unpleasant odors are not worrying because garbage is mainly made up of household waste and plastics and does not contain toxic substances."

"I think if the government is not able to properly address the situation, it may have to call on the army to intervene as it always does," he said.