Le Havre, France: Progress made in Dollemard’s old landfill sites


Piled high at the top of a cliff, 400 000 tonnes of waste is eroding into the Manche (English Channel) with every high tide. For several years now Dollemard’s former landfill site has been sparking outrage among Le Havre’s inhabitants. Since 2016, Surfrider Europe and its Coastal Defenders have been fighting hand-in-hand with a citizen collective to end this environmental catastrophe. Now, 4 years later, the City of Le Havre has just launched the first trial on material sorting to determine the best method to act on this issue while maintaining the integrity of the coastline in this protected natural area.  

First trials on material sorting 

Located in an area that is difficult to access, excavating this abandoned landfill site requires several trials in order to determine the best restoration strategy. The first finally took place from July 28th to 30th, 2020, on the City of Le Havre’s initiative. The operation consisted of removing a portion of waste and transporting it to Aquacaux, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing employment opportunities to people in need through environmental initiatives. From there the waste was brought to an upcycling facility to execute adequate testing. Due to the complexity of where the landfill is located, substantial sample tests were necessary. Several trials will now be undertaken to determine the best processing solution. Possible methods include sorting with the use of sieve chains, cleaning of materials, floating trials, and road and agronomical upcycling trials. The first results are expected by the end of the summer. The full study will then be released in November 2020. Surfrider Europe is closely following the project’s progress with specific attention to the results of the fauna and flora inventory survey carried out in January 2020, which aimed to evaluate the impact of a future worksite in this protected natural environment. At this stage, Surfrider Europe is recommending to process waste on site as transportation to the sorting center would become too expensive overtime.

© Ville du Havre

A major environmental issue    

As part of the Natural 2000 area, Dollemard’s cliffs are identified as a noteworthy natural site in Le Havre’s urban development plan. Prior to this classification, the landfill here was active for more than 50 years and even though it closed in 1998, this site continues to be a huge source of ongoing pollution for the coastline. Indeed, each tide erodes more of the cliff and exposes the once-buried waste, washing plastic, polystyrene and other macro waste out to sea. If no action is taken, by 2050, it is estimated that the entirety of the landfill waste will have been unleashed into the Manche. However, taking into account the site complexities, actions will have to be quite innovative to excavate the cliff without weakening it, hence the on-going material test phases.

In the field, Surfrider Coastal Defenders lend ongoing support to a local collective of engaged citizens who have been fighting this issue for years. Progress on this action is closely monitored and these initial tests are a welcomed sign that a restoration effort is on its way. Unfortunately, Dollemard is not an isolated case. Thousands of abandoned coastal landfill sites exist across the world releasing waste in the Ocean; unprecedented pollution in the coming years is thus to be feared. To prevent these catastrophes as much as possible, Surfrider Coastal Defenders needs your support. Submit your testimonies of large-scale pollution and join movement. Visit the Coastal Defenders website to learn more about ongoing fights and how to get involved. 

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