Meet the Paris street sweeper who became a TikTok celebrity

PARIS (Reuters) - Fed up with people throwing litter on the ground in the COVID-19 pandemic, Paris street sweeper Ludovic Franceschet has taken to TikTok to spread his message: put your trash in a garbage can.

The 45-year-old has become an unlikely youth culture hit in France with time-lapse videos of him sweeping up piles of trash, dancing and making heart-felt appeals to people to keep the planet clean.

His TikTok account has 59,000 followers, 608,000 “likes” and some of the videos he posted have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

As Franceschet worked his way around Les Halles district of central Paris on Thursday with his broom and hand-cart, one young man broke off from his fast-food lunch and asked: “Are you the guy from TikTok?”

Franceschet said from the age of 7 he was picking up cigarette butts from the family garden and paper bags from the street.

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He has previously worked as a caregiver for cancer patients and autistic adults. But he said garbage collecting is his true calling. “My dream is simple, to have a clean planet,” he told Reuters.

He works seven-hour shifts, and after tax is paid around 1,500 euros ($1,789) per month, he said.

In the pandemic, eating in restaurants and cafes is banned, so many people get takeaway. That has led to a rise in the volume of trash in the street - and more work for Franceschet.

His journey into TikTok stardom began when he realised it was not enough just to pick up the rubbish, and he needed to educate young people about their civic duty.

“I made videos,” he said. “It got 100 likes, I said: ‘Wow, let’s try to go further.’ And then I realised it reaches the young generation.”

Reporting by Antony Paone and Michaela Cabrera; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Janet Lawrence