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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Communities Demand an End to Plastic Bags on #plasticbagfreeday

More than 100 organizations from all over the world took action on the International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated last 3rd July, to demand an end to plastic bags use and raise awareness about its impacts on the environment, most importantly in the marine ecosystems.


The growing number of groups that sign-on to this international day of action, and the wide variety of activities celebrated across the world, showed that sensitivity towards the impacts from plastic bags is increasing significantly. As a main result, communities are getting organized to demand effective measures to cut back plastic bags and plastic waste in general, which has been described as an ugly, unhealthy, unsustainable and useless product.

plastic bag ariadna

Furthermore, plastic bags are a major threat to biodiversity and contribute to maintaining the throwaway society patterns that are trashing our finite resources and polluting the environment. From a sustainability point of view, the 80 million of tones of plastic waste that can be found in the sea represent 100 million barrels of oil. These and other outstanding facts and figures about the impacts of plastic bags have been heard across the world in a wide variety of actions – see complete map of actions:

The organizers of the International Plastic Bag Free Day expressed their satisfaction with the international response to the call out for action.

“Plastic bags are a great place to start taking action and design waste out of our systems”, said Joan Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe ‘s Executive Director, one of the organizing networks together with GAIA and Fundació per a la Prevenció de Residus. “We are moving forward building up zero waste societies that are resource-efficient and plastic bags have no place in them”.

The campaign for a Plastic Bag Free World will continue throughout the year on a regular basis supporting groups and individuals all over the world in its mission to phase out plastic bags from our consumption habits and ecosystems.

Further info:

Plastic Bag Free Day @bagfreeday

Contact: info(at)

‘Management of organics, A Fundamental Pillar For Zero Waste Success’ – Focus of Next International Training

One of the pillars of Zero Waste is source separation of organics –the only way to obtain clean, high-quality compost. The most successful experiences within the Zero Waste network, those places that have achieved separate collection percentages above 80% such as Capannori, Hernani, or the region of Contarina, have implemented a source separation of organic waste to ensure the maximization of this material and avoid the contamination in other waste streams. Morever, a growing number of Zero Waste municipalities are separately collecting biowaste and other waste fractions and already achieve high recovery rates combined with job creation.

In this way, source separation of organic waste offer the biggest potential for improving recycling rates, reducing waste going to landfill and incinerators and providing a good source of nutrients to be brought back to soils via composting. Alternatively, organic waste is an untapped energy source to create biogas through Anaerobic Digestion technologies.

In any case, organic waste represents 30 to 40% of our household waste in Europe, thus solving the collection and treatment of organic waste is key to ensure the financial and environmental feasibility of a Zero Waste Strategy. Furthermore, the tendency to maximise material recovery of biowaste is a growing one and this is confirmed by the roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe (2013) and the communication Towards a Circular Economy (2014). New EU recycling targets will –directly or indirectly- make separate collection of biowaste mandatory in order to achieve the ambitious benchmarks the EU is aiming for in 2030.

How shall we implement a successful organic waste management system?

The management of organic matter from MSW is an essential part of sustainable management of resources and all European municipalities need to get up to speed with this. And yet, municipalities may be faced with a number of questions as to how to implement a user-friendly, efficient and economically feasible system. Whether it is a city, a town or a village; whether there is more or less population density; whether inhabitants live in terraced houses or high-rise buildings…all of these circumstances will need to be taken into account when designing a solid organic waste management system.

Fortunately, after decades of experiences and with consolidated practices in the field of collection and treatment of organic waste, today it is possible to assess any given situation and design a system to capture most of organic waste present in MSW and ensure high quality output, saving costs to the communities and bringing the nutrients back to the soils.

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With the aim of contributing to the development of well-designed and efficient organic waste management systems, Zero Waste Europe organises the first International Training Course on Organics Management. This hands-on high-profile course will empower waste managers, policy makers and activists with all necessary tools to design and implement cost-efficient high-quality programs for biowaste management.

The course will be given by Dr Marco Ricci, Dr Enzo Favoino and Dr Alberto Confalonieri from the Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza, all of them pioneers in the separate collection and treatment of organic waste in Italy and in Europe. Moreover, it will be an excellent opportunity to network with European zero waste groups and be part of strategic discussions and vision development.

Register now for the International Training Course on Biowaste Management- Donosti, 13-15 October.

Looking forward to seeing you in Donosti!

Press Release on International bag-free day: EU Council of Ministers must clamp down on use of plastic bags

[Brussels, July 3, 2014 – joint press release]

Logos PR brussels

On the International Plastic Bag-Free Day, EU Ministers must support a European Parliament proposal which sets limits on environmentally damaging single-use plastic bags, according to a coalition of environmental and waste prevention organisations [1].

Every European uses an estimated 500 plastic bags a year on average [2], 92.5% of which are single-use. Around 90 billion single-use plastic bags were used in the EU in 2010, and single-use bags accounted for 73% of the waste collected along the Tuscan coast [3]. These petroleum based products can contain toxic additives such as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens migrate into marine environment and enter the food chain via marine fauna.

Plastic bags made up around 40% of all the marine litter across UK waters and the North Sea [4], and in the Bay of Biscay over 90% of waste items found on the seabed were plastic [5].

In April, the European Parliament tabled proposals to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags by 80% across the EU by 2019 – with measures including charges, bans, awareness-raising campaigns and restrictions on the use of hazardous substances and oxo-degradables in plastic bags. For this proposal to become EU law, the Council of Ministers must now approve it. In this regard, 92 % of the respondents to the new survey from Eurobarometer agree that measures should be taken to reduce the use of single-use plastic items, such as shopping bags [6].

Joan-Marc Simon from Zero Waste Europe said: “Plastic pollution is a global problem waiting for global solution. As an international player the EU should lead by example and not lag behind other countries in reducing usage of single-use plastic bags. The Commission and the Parliament have put forward a realistic and necessary proposal, we call the Council of Ministers to uphold it and improve it”.

Antidia Citores from Surfrider Foundation Europe said: “Single use plastics bags are used for a few minutes but stay for centuries in our seas and oceans. In 2011, more than 70% of respondents to an EU consultation were supportive of a ban on single use plastic bags and in 2013, more than 22,500 European citizens signed our petition for an EU ban on disposable plastic bags. Member States have now a unique opportunity to help tackling one of the most emblematic sources of marine litter. Oceans cannot wait more.”

Piotr Barczak from European Environmental Bureau said: “Our reliance on single-use packaging makes no sense. Plastic bags are one of the easiest waste streams to tackle, and the Council can now act to end this unsustainable, throw-away practice that has become a norm in our society.

Ariadna Rodrigo from Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Single-use plastic bags are an example of how we mismanage our resources in Europe. Rather than keeping materials in our economy for as long as possible, we are extracting evermore resources for short-lived products that we do not need. The European Parliament supported actions to eradicate this situation, now the Council needs to act.”

Marta Beltran from Fundació Prevenció de Residus said: “Our society can not afford the waste of resources and the environmental, social and economic impacts of plastic bags and marine littering. Strong reduction in the consumption of plastic bags is necessary to contribute achieve the objectives towards a resource-efficient Europe and eradicate marine littering.”

The fifth edition of International plastic bag-free day sees groups from all over the world organising activities to raise awareness on the environmental impact of single-use plastic bags and to demand that governments act to stop marine littering.

The International Plastic Bag-Free Day is organised by Zero Waste Europe, GAIA and the Fundació Catalana per a la Prevenció de Residus i Consum.


[1] Zero Waste Europe, GAIA, the European Environmental Bureau, Surfrider Foundation, Friends of the Earth Europe and the Foundation for Waste Prevention.
[2] European Commission press release: Commission seeks views on reducing plastic bag use
[3] Green Paper On a European Strategy on Plastic Waste in the Environment.
[4] Data taken from the International Bottom Trawl Survey and the Clean Seas Environmental Monitoring Programme by CEFAS.
[5] OSPAR, 2009
[6] European Commission press release, 30th June 2014
Joan-Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe , +34 646 40 89 63
Piotr Barczak, Policy Officer on Waste, European Environmental Bureau,, +32 (0) 2289 10 97

Antidia Citores, Law and lobbying coordinator, Surfrider Foundation Europe,, +33 6 32 68 90 36

Ariadna Rodrigo, Resource use Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe,, +32 2893 10 34
Marta Beltran, Coordinator of Waste Campaigns, Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum,, +34 676 488 720
To find out more about the international plastic bag-free day see:



Zero Waste Europe – Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communitties to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system.
GAIA –Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives- is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries working for a world without waste.
Surfrider Foundation Europe is an environmental association, statute 1901, created in 1990 in France (Biarritz). During its existence, it has achieved real expertise in the areas of research, local action, as well as the creation and diffusion of educational tools. Today, it consists of a network of 1,700 volunteers, 10,000 members and 100,000 supporters in forty local offices that are active in twelve European countries.
The European Environmental Bureau is Europe’s largest federation of environmental organisations with more than 140 member organisations who gain their membership from the general public. The EEB is guided by the voices of 15 million European citizens, and acts as the ears and voice of its members towards EU decision makers and beyond.
Friends of the Earth Europe is the largest grassroots environmental network in Europe, uniting more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups.
Fundació Prevenció de Residus i Consum -Catalan Foundation for Waste Prevention and Responsible Consumption- is a nonprofit organization driven by environmental organizations, universities, companies (some of them retailers) and municipalities. It promotes campaigns (like the International bag-free day, that begun in 2008 as a Catalan scope and leaded to the annual celebration worldwide) and projects for waste prevention and information exchange among social, economical and institutional sectors in order to shift to a circular economy and a resource efficiency society.

Press Release: Circular Economy Package puts Europe firmly on the Zero Waste track but…

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) welcomes the Circular Economy package published today by the European Commission and acknowledges its good intention to move the EU towards Zero Waste.

As a network of local zero waste groups and more than 300 European municipalities, ZWE is at the forefront of waste management practices in Europe and hence can confirm the feasibility of the new benchmarks set up by the European Commission.

In particular, ZWE commends the;

  • new recycling targets of 70% by 2030, which means that in order to reach this target waste separate collection should achieve consistently higher levels
  • clarification of what is to be understood with recycling -by excluding discards from the recycling process-
  • new recycling target of 80% for packaging waste
  • mandatory separate collection of organics by 2025,
  • reduction goal for food waste by at least 30% by 2025
  • reduction target for marine litter of 30% for 2020
  • introduction of criteria related to durability, modularity, reusability and recyclability in the Ecodesign Directive
  • intention from the side of the EU to stop funding disposal facilities and channel resources towards separate collection, re-use and recycling infrastructure

However, ZWE warns about the;

  • “ban the landfilling of recyclable waste” without a parallel ban of incineration of recyclable waste.
    Despite ‘energy recovery’ is placed one step above ‘disposal’ in the Waste Hierarchy included in the WFD, from a Zero Waste perspective priority should be given to the top options: reduce, reuse and recycling. In fact, recycling should be the latest acceptable option. Instead, the Circular Economy package continues to open the door to incineration, which according to EEA doesn’t have a place in a circular economy[i]
  • repetition of past mistakes regarding moving waste up the hierarchy. Same as the progressive diversion of biowaste from landfill  included in some national regulations in the past did not just lead to more recycling but it also boosted incineration, the current proposal of banning landfilling of plastics risks promoting plastic incineration instead of plastic prevention, reuse and recycling
  • worrying lack of vision regarding the treatment of plastic packaging, especially in view of marine pollution, which is seen to have the lowest reuse and recycling target of all waste streams
  • using a target for both re-use and recycling; recycling is for materials (paper, plastic, etc) whereas preparation for re-use should address products
  • lack of guidance and instruments to boost reuse in Europe despite being the biggest potential contributor to job creation

For these reasons ZWE proposes to:

  • reconsider the fate of the remaining 30% of waste which is not to be recycled by 2030. Zero Waste practice shows that it is possible to redesign systems in order to ensure further reduction and material recovery of the remaining non-recyclable waste
  • pursue a real “closed loop” circular economy by banning both landfilling and incineration by 2030
  • introduce a feed-back mechanism between waste and product policy; by screening what is not reusable or recyclable today, we can send a signal to producers to redesign the product so that it stops being waste in the future
  • separate targets for preparation for re-use from recycling targets,
  • introduce overall prevention and reuse binding targets both for municipal waste but also and very specially for packaging.

The Director of ZWE, Joan Marc Simon said:
“The package presented today shows that the EU continues to be in the right path towards Zero Waste and this should be praised. However the proposal still focuses too much on end of pipe solutions. Our experience with Zero Waste municipalities and districts shows that the big push is needed at the front end to:
– design products that are durable, reusable and recyclable,
– facilitate optimisation of separate collection –including biowaste-
– and create legal and economic conditions for prevention, reuse and recycling to take over what now goes to landfill and incineration.”

Press Contact:

Joan Marc Simon


About ZWE:
Zero Waste Europe was created to empower communities to rethink their relationship with resources.
In a growing number of regions, local groups of individuals, businesses and city officials are taking significant steps towards eliminating waste in our society. Zero Waste Europe engages at two levels:

  • Supporting local groups with independent knowledge and streamlined tools to drive change more efficiently,
  • Structuring the movement internationally to better represent the interests of our communities at the EU level and engage policy makers with a unified voice.

In these regards, Zero Waste Europe operates both as a knowledge network and as an advocacy group, representing active communities in EU countries.
ZWE proposes to re-design our society in a way that all superfluous waste is eliminated and everything that is produced can be re-used, repaired, composted or recycled back into the system. Anything that can’t be repaired, composted or recycled should be re-designed and replaced or banned from entering the market.