Slide background
Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

27 Blogs Sharing Creative Ways to Reuse Your Leftovers

Instead of tossing out leftovers from last night’s dinner, transform them into a totally new dish. If you get creative enough, the family may not even realize that they are eating the same thing! Plus, it’s a huge money saver to cook once and serve twice, thrice or more!  Over the weekend, when things aren’t so rushed, bake a whole turkey or prepare a roast. Portion out the leftovers, then package them up so you can use them throughout the rest of the week. Freeze anything extra for the following week.  Here are 27 blog entries to give you some creative ideas for turning those leftovers into a whole new meal.

Dinner to Breakfast

When it comes to leftovers, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t using them for breakfast the next day. But it should be! For a twist on the traditional breakfast scramble, reheat the leftovers in a pan mixed with some beaten eggs. This technique will also work for a frittata, but it tends to be finished in the oven.  Something as simple as spreading ricotta cheese and honey on some of the bread that’s been toasted from the night before can also be a way to use up leftovers.  These nine blog passages will give you a place to start, so you can get creative with whatever leftovers are available.

Dinner to Lunch Box

Taking leftovers for lunch the next day is a relatively common thing to do.  Not only does it save money, but it’s quick to grab on the way out the door in the morning.  However, once leftovers have gone to work as lunch one day, it’s not much fun taking them again the next day.  Wouldn’t it be nice if dinner leftovers could get made over into something totally different?  Steak from dinner last night can be turned into a steak and cheese hoagie or sliced and put on top of a salad.  Other types of leftovers can get a new life wrapped in a tortilla with some lettuce and cheese.  For more ideas like this, take a look at these nine blog posts.

Healthy Makeovers

Healthy dinners make for healthy leftover remakes as well.  Any grain served for dinner can be turned into a salad with veggies for the next day’s lunch or as a side dish for dinner.  Beans are very versatile, and morph well into several meals from burritos to salad to soup. Roasting a whole turkey may sound odd at any time besides Thanksgiving, but it’s a healthy lean meat that can be made into so many different dishes.  To learn how to transform leftovers into healthy dinners check out these nine blog entries.


Guest article from

ZW Best practices: Hernani

Hernani is one of the first towns in Gipuzkoa to have declared Zero Waste. As a result, since 2009 waste recycling has almost quadrupled whereas waste generation has been substantially decreased.


This is their story:


In 2002, the regional waste management consortium in Spain’s Gipuzkoa Province, faced with a nearly full landfill, proposed building two new incinerators. Citizens strongly opposed the incinerators and prevented one from being built and the new party elected in 2011 stopped the second one. Hernani and two other small cities in the region established an ambitious program of door-to-door collection of source-separated waste, including organics. The amount of waste going to the landfill in places where the Zero Waste strategy has been embraced has been reduced by 80 percent. With new political leadership opposed to incineration, door-to-door collection is expanding throughout the region.

Practices vs. Technology


Hernani is a city of over 19,000 residents in the Basque Country of Spain. Together with nine other municipalities, it is part of the San Marko mancomunidad (a free association of municipalities), created to manage solid waste jointly. At the provincial level, all the mancomunidades plus the provincial government comprise a consortium that promotes and manages the Gipuzkoa Integrated Waste Management Plan. Hernani’s former municipal waste management system strongly relied on waste disposal complemented by a limited recycling system. While citizens could voluntarily dispose of recyclables in the four large containers placed on the streets, most of the city’s waste went to the landfill.


organics hernani

In 2002, when the San Marko landfill was nearly full, the provincial government presented a controversial plan: the addition of another container for the voluntary recycling of organic materials and the construction of two new incinerators. Citizen opposition to incineration was immediate. Since then, the region has been immersed in a tenacious dispute between those who want to build the incinerators and those who promote waste prevention policies and better source separation strategies.

Joining the citizens’ opposition, some municipalities decided not only to reject the plan to build new incinerators but also to implement an alternative to burying or burning. Usurbil was the first municipality to do so. This town of 6,000 people established a door-to-door collection system of source-separated waste streams, including organic materials. In just 6 weeks, the amount of collected waste destined for landfills dropped by 80%. The resource recovery rate registered in the first year was 82%. In 2008, before door-to-door collection started, Usurbil was taking 175 tons per month to the landfill. One year later, the amount had dropped to 25 tons.

Implementing Changes


In May 2010, after two months of dialogue with the citizens to explain and solicit input on the new system, Hernani followed the model of Usurbil. The municipality distributed two small bins per household, placed hooks to hang the bins and bags at the front of houses and buildings, removed the large containers from the streets, established waste segregation as mandatory, and launched door-to-door collection. Citizens began to place separated organics, light packaging, paper and cardboard, and residuals in front of their houses.


Each stream has a designated pick-up day: organics on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; light packaging on Mondays and Thursdays; paper and cardboard on Tuesdays; and residuals on Saturdays. Light packaging is placed in bags, and the government sells reusable bags for this purpose. Paper and cardboard are tied in bundles or placed in boxes or bags. Organics are placed in the bins provided by the government, and the residuals are disposed of in bags. The collection is done by a public company called Garbitania, created by the governments of Hernani, Usurbil, and Oiartzun. Collection is done at night, with a complementary shift during the morning. Each bin and each hook have a code that identifies the household that uses them. This allows the government to monitor separation in each household. If the collector identifies a stream that does not correspond to that collection day, s/he puts a sticker with a red cross on the bin and does not collect that waste. The information is given to the administration office, and the household receives a notice explaining why the waste was not collected.


For glass, the system of large containers on the streets was maintained, and door-to-door collection is done only in the old part of the city. A non-profit association created by producers, packers, bottlers, and recyclers handles this stream. The association is funded by contributions the packaging companies pay for each product they put on the market.


If someone misses the door-to-door collection, there are four emergency centers to drop off waste. There is also a drop-off site that takes bulky waste, electric and electronic devices, and other waste not covered by the door-to-door collection free of charge. For businesses, the collection schedule is the same as for households, with an extra day of collection for residuals. In rural areas, home composting is mandatory, and other streams are either collected door-to-door or taken to drop-off centers.


Under the new system, Hernani promotes home composting throughout the municipality. People can sign up for a composting class, request a home composting manual, and receive a compost bin for free. There is a phone line to get composting advice, and there are compost specialists who can visit households in need of assistance. People who sign up to compost at home receive a 40% discount on the municipal waste management fee. The fee for businesses varies according to the collection frequency and the amount of waste produced, using pay as you throw criteria.


The San Marko mancomunidad operates a materials recovery facility where light packaging is sorted for sale. Paper and cardboard are sold to a recycling company nearby. Organic materials must be taken 50 km away to a compost plant, operated by the provincial consortium. Source separation is reflected in the material that Hernani takes to the compost plant, which consists of—on average—only 1.5% impurities (non-organics and other pollutants).[1]

In the first full month of the door-to-door collection, the residuals dropped by 80%, and the total waste managed decreased by 27%.[2] In 2010, the municipality landfilled 53.8% less waste than in 2009 (5,219 tons in 2009 and 2,412 tons in 2010), and door-to-door collection had only begun in May.

Municipal solid waste landfilled hernani

“Our state-of-the-art technology is the neighbors.”

Communication and community participation have been key to the success of the program. The conviction that the use of incinerators was the worst option and that door-to-door collection was feasible and the best solution for Hernani supported the change. In the two months prior to the implementation of the new collection system, the government organized meetings to explain and revise the new system. As the mayor declared, “Our state-of-the-art technology is the neighbors. If the neighbors separate well, there is no need to build an incinerator.”[3]


The governments that have implemented door-to-door collection programs have promoted the creation of citizens´ committees to monitor their implementation. Moreover, local Zero Zabor (Zero Waste) groups have emerged in these cities, building on earlier anti-incinerator movements. The different local groups are working together in Gipuzkoa Zero Zabor. In a few years, these volunteer activists have advanced the conversation from opposing incinerators to promoting an authentic Zero Waste strategy that focuses on preventing waste—through changes in design, production, and consumption—and recovering all materials discarded in a safe and sustainable manner.


Hernani joined other municipalities and groups opposing the incinerators and promoting the extension of door-to-door collection to the entire Gipuzkoa province. Many municipalities in the region are reticent to opt for Zero Waste strategies, and this threatens to undermine the progress being made in cities that use these strategies. However, since the municipal elections in July 2011, the political scenario has changed.

Waste Production in Hernani – Before and After Door-to-Door Collection

In 2010, Hernani produced an average of 500 tons of municipal solid waste per month, and had a per capita generation of 0.86 kg per day, compared to 1.1 kg the year before. The recent economic crisis in Spain has resulted in a general reduction in waste production in the country. The implementation of the new door-to-door collection system and the communication campaign about waste may have raised people’s awareness about waste, leading to changes in buying behavior. Finally, the former system of large bins probably made it easier for people to put non-residential waste in the bins (for instance, construction and demolition waste), and the current system of individual bins makes it more difficult to do that.


The following tables show the evolution of the composition of residential waste in Hernani before and after adoption of the door-to-door collection system. Table 3 provides the specific amounts for each waste stream.

evolution waste treatment hernani
waste per stream

The table below shows that Usurbil, Hernani, and Oiartzun have reduced the residual waste per capita in a very short time, while in other municipalities the figure remains constant. The fourth municipality to adopt door-to-door separated waste collection, Antzuola, has reported that 90% of the discards collected are separated for recovery, and residuals represent only 10% of the total collected there.[1]



The government of Hernani compared the costs of the door-to-door collection system with the previous one that used four large containers, as shown below.

Hernani costs

Usurbil has collected enough data to compare the actual expenses of both collection systems for a full year. The results show that the door-to-door collection system is actually less expensive than the container system, mostly due to the income generated from the sale of recyclable materials.


Table 6. Cost Comparison of the Door-to-Door and Container Collection in Usurbil





Containers & Door-to-door (as of March) 2009



Expenses (€)




Income (€)




Net cost (€)




Self-finance rate




Source: Informe de Gastos e ingresos de la recogida de residuos 2006-2010. Ayuntamiento de Usurbil


Skeptics of source separation maintain that the costs increase prohibitively when moving from one-stream collection to a differentiated collection system. Although collection expenses do tend to increase in most cases, that is not the whole story: the differentiated collection increases resource recovery, which offsets disposal costs and creates a source of income through the sale of recyclables (and organics, in other cities). As shown above, in Usurbil the new system was less expensive than the previous one. In the case of Hernani, the slightly higher costs for the door-to-door collection were due at least in part to the need to transport the organics to a distant plant.More importantly Hernani has to pay the same fee to the mancomunidad as before the system change despite having decreased the use of landfill. Once the system is changed so that the municipalities pay proportionally to the amount of waste they dispose of Hernani will have a clearly positive economic balance.

It is also important to note that the door-to-door collection and recycling system has the additional benefit of creating more jobs than waste management strategies based on massive burying or burning; the extra money required to support the system provides a significant boost to the local economy. In total, 16 jobs were created in Hernani by door-to-door collection.


Today more and more municipalities in Gipuzkoa are implementing door-to-door collection of source separated waste, all with great results. Both governments and community groups are showing the positive changes produced by these strategies in terms of sustainable materials management, education, pollution prevention, and local economy. Moreover, what they are showing is that a community-based waste management system can bring impressive results in a short period, if only governments dare to lead the way and count on their citizens.

Taken from the report “On the Road to Zero Waste” published by GAIA in 2012

[1] Marian Beitialarrangoitia: “Tenemos una base sólida para poner en martxa el puerta a puerta.” 5 December 2009. Published in


[2] Estimate based on waste production and collection data provided by Mancomunidad of San Marko.



Time to vote out waste at the People’s Design Lab

Wrapped peeled bananas

One of the most challenging fractions of waste in a zero waste vision is all that is left over after recycling—because it is either too toxic to be safely recycled or is made out of non-recyclable material. It’s the fearsome residual fraction.

It is also that fraction of waste that proponents of end-of-pipe technologies such as landfills or incinerators use as their failsafe excuse to expand, as if the residual fraction is inevitable, a given by nature that is here to stay.

Well, far from it. Instead of blind acceptance, if you take a good look at what this residual fraction is made up of, then you’ll be able to assess the most appropriate solutions. At a minimum, if something cannot be reused, composted, or recycled, it needs to undergo a proper redesign!

A good place to start is outing residual waste. Enter the People’s Design Lab, where you can nominate products that can’t be recycled, re-used or repaired; vote for the worst of the nominated products; and share better ideas. The People’s Design Lab was formally launched on April 27th at the gorgeous and inspiring Good Life Centre in London, where lots of zero wasters had a first go nominating the worst and best products for a zero waste future.

The four People’s Design Lab Award categories are self-explanatory and rather eye-opening:

–      The Weakest Link Award for Products You Thought Would Last a Long Time, but broke and then couldn’t be fixed. Maybe these items are impossible to open or take apart without inflicting terminal damage to the product, or it could be that spares just aren’t available. Take, for example, affordable headphones, which break easily and are very hard, if not impossible, to fix. That’s a nomination for the Weakest Link.

–      The Bin Again Award for Stuff You Throw Away Week After Week. What is it that you keep throwing in the bin? Black food packaging trays, multi-layer envelopes, pump dispensers? The purpose of this award for disposables is to highlight and find solutions for products that are frustratingly designed for limited use. Can they not be made out of recycled material? Is there no alternative already available or waiting to be developed? The People’s Lab not only solicits nominations, but also wants to hear what you’ve got to say about options.

–      The Russian Doll Award for Unnecessary Packaging. We’ve all seen these products that need a packaging refresh. Maybe they have too many different materials or are made of non-recyclable materials? If you are frustrated about the packaging around a product or have a great idea for alternative packaging to propose, then this is the place to share it. Don’t be shy; let’s out pre-peeled re-wrapped bananas, cereal packets whose plastic packaging and cardboard boxes are only 3/5 full, crisps and biscuit packaging, dead space in pharmaceutical products, and other ridiculous examples of unnecessary packaging in our wasteful society.

–      Award for all Other Products Needing A Redesign. If your nomination does not fit any of these categories, just submit it here! Small electronic chargers for example, just need to be re-designed. Why do they all have to be so different? So incompatible? Share with People’s Lab your discomfiture and join forces to rethink these products.

oversized packaging

Ultimately, it’s time to champion zero waste design. The People’s Lab also asks for nominations for the Best Zero Waste Design to celebrate the many ground-breaking innovations that are already being developed. See for example the reusable carpet tiles, or the ARA Chair, which has been the first chair to achieve full Cradle to Cradle accreditation.

Get involved! There is no time to waste! The People’s Design Lab will be open for your nominations and votes until May 27th. Let’s all support this creative and fun strategy to raise awareness about our fearsome residual waste fraction.

Guest article from Zero Waste World

What to do with the “leftovers” of Zero Waste

Zero Waste is about minimising waste generation, maximising reuse & recycle and redesigning the economy in order to phase out those products that are either toxic or not recyclable.

However, during the time in which we can’t stop producers from selling badly designed stuff we need to find the best option to treat the waste that today can’t be recycled or composted and which amounts to 5 to 20% of total household waste -depending on the community-. For instance in the first European town to declare Zero Waste, Capannori, this amounts to 8%. In the Gipuzkoa province the waste that is not recyclable is 19%.

So what to do with what is left? According to a scientific study recently published the disposal option with the lowest impact is MRBT to landfill, or in other words, pre-treat the waste, recover as much as possible, biologically stabilise and landfill it.

The European Commission and the waste incineration industry promote the belief that after maximizing recycling, reuse and composting, the best thing a community can do with leftover waste is to create energy with it. But this is a political choice with little science behind.

A new lifecycle analysis report, which compares the environmental impacts of the three most common disposal methods used globally, finds that the best approach to protecting the public health and the environment isn’t mass burn waste-to-energy, and it isn’t landfill gas-to-energy. The report found that, after aggressive community-wide recycling, reuse and composting, the most environmentally-sound disposal option for any waste that may still remain is a third option: Materials Recovery, Biological Treatment (MRBT). 


Graph MRBT

Material Recovery, Biological Treatment is a process to “pre-treat” mixed waste before landfilling in order to recover even more dry materials for recycling and minimize greenhouse gas and other emissions caused by landfilling by stabilizing the organic fraction with a composting-like process. Very similar to the MBT systems used widely in Europe, the goal of MRBT is to capture any remaining recyclables and then create inert residuals that will produce little to no landfill gas when buried. The system can also classify non-recyclable dry items for the purpose of identifying industrial design change opportunities, which helps to drive further waste reduction.


This report emphasizes that source separation for recycling and composting is still the best environmental option for managing all discards and should be the focus of community efforts. However, “on the way to Zero Waste” there is still the need to reduce the negative impacts of disposal and minimize the need to invest in new disposal facilities. Communities should look beyond the two traditional options—burying and burning—toward building MRBT systems that have the lowest overall environmental impact of the technologies commercially available today.


Using a tool developed by economist Dr. Jeffrey Morris called MEBCalcTM, or Measuring Environmental Benefits Calculator, the study compared the three disposal strategies—MRBT, mass burn waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy—across seven environmental categories, including climate change, water pollution, air pollution and human health impacts.

The MRBT system was shown to be the best choice for a community to dispose of its leftovers because it recovers the greatest amount of additional recyclables, stabilizes the organic fraction of the residuals, reduces the amount of material to be disposed of in a landfill, and minimizes the negative environmental and public health impacts of landfilling leftovers compared to the other disposal alternatives, landfill gas-to-energy or mass-burn waste-to-energy.

MRBT Urbaser

“MRBT is not a replacement or substitution for source separation, but it is a tool for helping communities reduce the environmental impacts of managing their leftovers as they progress on their way to Zero Waste,” says Eric Lombardi, the Executive Director of Eco-Cycle and sponsor of the study.


When utilized in a community with successful recycling and composting programs, MRBT has further benefits beyond its lower environmental impacts. Because the pre-treatment process includes additional sorting and recovery of recyclable dry materials, MRBT can help support very high levels of landfill diversion. The study modeled an 87% diversion rate for the city of Seattle, Washington based on 71% diversion from current source-separated recycling efforts and an additional 16% from the MRBT process, including increased recovery of recyclables and the weight reduction of the organic materials from moisture evaporation and biogenic carbon conversion to carbon dioxide.


MRBT infrastructure is also flexible and dual-purposed, able to handle both mixed waste and source-separated recyclables and organics. This means a community is not tied to feeding the facility a continuous flow of mixed waste over the next several decades and is not investing in a future of ever-more waste. Rather, as a community’s Zero Waste efforts improve, the MRBT model can adjust to a declining volume of leftover waste and support the growth of source separated collection systems. In addition, MRBT infrastructure can be built and operational on a shorter time scale than landfills and incinerators, and can be modular in size to help communities manage their leftover waste more locally.


According to Joan Marc Simon, Founder of Zero Waste Europe, “This report is exactly what we need at the right time to help guide the debate on what to do with residuals once we reach high separate collection rates. Europe has over-invested in waste incineration and needs solutions that deliver environmental safety while still focusing on increasing recycling and reducing material consumption.”


The report was an international effort authored by Dr. Jeffrey Morris, an economist and life-cycle assessment expert with Sound Resource Management Group based in Olympia, Washington; Dr. Enzo Favoino, Senior Researcher at Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza in Milan, Italy; Eric Lombardi, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, a Zero Waste social enterprise based in Boulder, Colorado; and Kate Bailey, Senior Analyst for Eco-Cycle.

The full report, “What is the best disposal option for the ‘Leftovers’ on the way to Zero Waste?” is available at