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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

1,500 votes and 100 solutions to end wasteful design


Two weeks ago, Zero Waste Europe and the People’s Design Lab launched the Redesign Europe Challenge. As part of the project citizens are asked to spot wasteful design on the market and in their daily lives and to suggest solutions.

After only two weeks since the launch, citizens have suggested over 100 solutions and we have counted more than 1,500 votes against wasteful products. Participants are not only voting from Europe, but from all over the world, proving that the frustration associated with wasteful design is broadly shared across the planet.

The three most “voted” wasteful products will win the #Designed4Trash award and will be the focus of the next phase, where Zero Waste Europe and the People’s Design Lab will campaign against the #Designed4Trash products whilst promoting zero waste alternative solutions.

The Challenge has also been shared on social media, including promotion by famous zero waste advocates such as Bea Johnson, and covered in news coverage and blogs.


Enough talk, time to act! Zero waste leaders take their message to G7

In a joint statement zero waste trailblazers from over 100 countries stood up to world leaders to say ‘don’t just talk about the circular economy and sustainability do it!’  at the G7 meeting in Taormina, Sicily on Thursday May 25th.

The message called on world leaders to put their words into action and detailed 5 steps towards the implementation of circular economy and zero waste strategies globally.

  1.  Ending subsidies for new resources destroying incinerators (euphemistically described as “waste to energy” facilities)
  2. Announcing a phase out plan for existing incinerators as zero waste plans progress
  3. Setting up zero waste research facilities to help industry re-design products and packaging that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
  4. Building separation facilities for the current fraction in the waste stream which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable. From this should be removed more recyclables, more household toxics and the dirty organic fraction which can be stabilised either via composting or anaerobic digestion before going to an interim landfill.
  5. Announcing a date whereby only 5%  (or less) of the waste stream is allowed into landfills.
  6. Providing positive incentives to industry to adopt zero waste strategies

The message comes as global leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan the United Kingdom, and the United States and the European Union met in Sicily between the 26 – 27th of May for the 42nd meeting of the group.

Signatories to the message include international NGOs, such as Zero Waste Europe, GAIA (Global Alliance for Zero Waste Alternatives), ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance) and The Indigenous Environmental Network, national organisations from around the world, and towns & cities such as Capannori, Italy, and San Francisco U.S.A. Prominent individuals such as Zero Waste hero Paul Connett and Goldman Prize winner Rossano Ercolini from the world of zero waste have also signed the statement which continues to gain signatories.


 A message to the G7 Heads of State meeting in Taormina, Sicily, May 26-27, 2017

This message is from citizens’ groups from at least 100 countries who are battling existing and proposed incinerators and are supporting positive steps towards Zero Waste.

 Dear G7 Heads of State,

don’t just talk about the circular economy and sustainability, do it! Take active steps to support communities in your countries who are pioneering Zero Waste strategies.

Such active steps should include:

  1. Ending subsidies for new resources destroying incinerators (euphemistically described as “waste to energy” facilities).
  2. Announcing a phase out plan for existing incinerators as zero waste plans progress.
  3. Setting up zero waste research facilities to help industry re-design. Products and packaging that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
  4. Building separation facilities in front of all existing landfills for the current residual fraction in the waste stream which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable. From this should be removed more recyclables, more household toxics and the dirty organic fraction which can be stabilized either via composting or anaerobic digestion before going to an interim landfill.
  5. Providing positive incentives to industry to adopt zero waste strategies.
  6. Providing funding to help set up Reuse and Repair centers in communities. Once funded these operations are usually self-sustainable.
  7. Dramatically reduce the production and use of disposable plastic items which are unexpectedly ending up in the oceans and impacting seabirds and the aquatic food chains.

The Circular Economy is the only way to secure a future for our productive system. For example, Europe is importing 60% of primary raw materials and that simply cannot be sustained

Zero Waste practices are the perfect toolkit to turn the “dream” of a Circular Economy into reality, supplementing the traditional reduce/reuse/recycle strategy with the important additional tool of redesigning for improved durability, repairability, recyclability.

In the words of the EU commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella, our “ZW communities are the living examples of Circular Economy and its viability and environmental, economic, occupational benefits

Zero Waste not only provides sustainable waste management solutions but also offers deep, cross sectoral benefits to address some of the most pressing global problems related to social and environmental justice and human rights.

As wars in the future, might well be caused by fights over limited resources, as they have been in the past, support for zero waste now may avoid incurring further international tensions over resources amongst Nations and can be seen as part of a global peace movement.

We know how busy you are, but may we request that you get your appropriate advisers to acquaint themselves with the details of the zero waste strategy from this book, “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time” (Chelsea Green, 2013) and also from this movie “Trashed” hosted and co-produced by Jeremy Irons.

Signers include:

International groups

Biodigestion Latin american Network

Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc, Boulder, Colorado, USA

GAIA (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives)

IEN (Indigenous Environmental Network)

ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance)

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste Mediterranean

National, Regional and local Groups

Agro-ecology Centre , Wayanad, Kerala, India

Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) Indonesia

WALHI/FoE, Indonesia

BaliFokus Foundation, Indonesia

Plastic Bag Diet Movement, Indonesia

Nol Sampah, Indonesia,

PPLH Bali, Indonesia

American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc., USA

APROMAC Environment Protection Association, Brazil

Basura Zero, Chile

Coalición Ciudadana Antiincineración, Argentina

Conservation Action Trust, India

Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia

Društvo Ekologi brez meja / Ecologists without Borders Association, Slovenia

Ecological Recycling Society, Greece

Ecowaste Coalition, Philippines

Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA

Green Delaware, USA

Hnutí DUHA (Friends of the Earth) Czech Republic

Instituto Lexo Zero, Brazil

It’s Not Garbage Coalition, Nova Scotia, Canada

IRTECO, Tanzania

ISLR (Institute of Local Self Reliance), USA

Mother Earth Foundation, Philippines

National Toxics Network Australia, Australia

Pesticide Action Network India, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Polish Zero Waste Association, Poland

Rezero-Catalan Waste Prevention, Spain

Residuo Zero, Brazil

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia), Malaysia

Sound Resource Management, Seattle, USA

Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan

Texas Campaign for the Environment, USA

THANAL, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil

UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network), UK

Work on Waste, USA

Zero Waste OZ, Australia

Zero Waste USA

Zero Waste BC, Canada

Zero Waste Canada

Zero Waste Catalan Strategy, Spain

Zero Waste Cyprus

Zero Waste Italy

Zero Waste Sicily

Zero Waste Slovenia

Zero Waste Spain

Zero Waste Tanzania

Zero Waste Tunisia

Zero Zbel, Morocco

Za Zemiata (Zero Waste Bulgaria)

Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), India

YPBB (indonesia)

Zero Waste Institute Africa

Zero Zabor ibe (Basque Country)

ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável (Portugal)

State and local groups

Neighbors Against the Burner and Airheads, Minnesota, USA

CHASE (Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment), Ireland

Cobh Zero Waste, Ireland

Green Delaware, Delaware, USA

NO Macrovertedero, SÍ Residuo 0, Madrid, Spain

San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, California, USA

Zero Waste Beijing, China

Zero Waste Capannori (the first town in Italy to adopt zero waste), Italy

Zero Waste San Francisco (the first major city in USA to adopt zero waste), USA

Zerowaste Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India



Paul Connett, PhD (Work on Waste USA; director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc, AEHSP)

Rossano Ercolini (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Enzo Favoino (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Paolo Guarnaccia (Zero Waste Italy)

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Environmental Indigenous Network, USA

Asrul Hoesein, Green Indonesia Foundation Jakarta, Indonesia

Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, Ph.D. (Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI),

Islamabad, Pakistan)

Gary Liss, Gary Liss & Associates, San Jose, California, USA

Patrizia Lo Sciuto, Zero Waste Italy

Eric Lombardi, (Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc.), Boulder, Colorado, USA

Jack Macy, Commercial Zero Waste Senior Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, California, USA

Dr. Jeffrey Morris, Sound Resource Management Group, Seattle, USA

Erika Oblak, Coordinator Zero Waste Slovenia

Stacy Savage, President, Zero Waste Strategies, LLC, Austin, Texas, USA

Helen Spiegelman, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Neil Seldman, President, ILSR, Washington, DC, USA

Antoinette “Toni” Stein, PhD, Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA

Brenda Platt, Director, Composting for Community Project
Co-Director, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Ana Carvalho

Les Champs-Élysées go circular. The city of Paris starts separately collecting organic waste

Finally! Paris is moving in the right direction by giving inhabitants of the city the means to take a new step in sorting and recycling. Since May 4, 2017, the French capital has started implementing an ambitious project to boost circular economy involving the source separation by households of organic waste in the Second and Twelfth Arrondisments. This action is part of the overall project for waste reduction and recycling, to which the city committed in 2014. The targets to achieve are the following: reducing by 10% by weight the quantity of generated waste between 2010 and 2020 and increasing recycling from 15% to more than 50%.

As part of its Recovery Plan for sorting, the City has been conducting a massive policy for two years to strengthen the means to facilitate the sorting of Parisians by giving them more solutions (Installation of several thousand additional sorting bins in garbage rooms) and increasing awareness of them (updating of instructions, dissemination of a new sorting guide, awareness-raising campaigns).

Who are the actors implementing food waste separate collection?

  • Council of Paris: Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris; Mao Peninou, assistant in charge of cleanliness, sanitation, organisation and operation of the Paris Council
  • Mayors of the Second and Twelfth Arrondissements, Catherine Jacques Boutault and Baratti-Elbaz
  • Syctom, the largest European waste treatment and recycling organisation, who have previously been involved in expensive and unnecessary infrastructure spending such as the renovation of the Ivry incinerator in Paris.
  • ADEME, the French agency for the environmental protection
  • Réseau Compostplus, the French network of bio-waste treatment facilities
  • Novamont, a leading company in the field of bioplastics.

How does it work?

The food discards of Parisians (from meal preparation to leftovers, and unused food still in packaging) is about 160,000 tons a year, or nearly ¼ of the content of the residual waste bin. This waste was until recently only collected mixed in with the general waste and was subsequently disposed of by incineration. The objective is now to collect this portion separately to be used in biogas and/or compost.

3,205 trays with brown lids (741 in the 2nd and 2,464 in the 12th) have been distributed in all the buildings which have been identified as suitable. Other buildings will be dealt with at a later date. Basically, the project involves 74,161 flats located in 4,361 buildings covering around 120,000 people. the participating households have also been provided with new bags for the collection of food waste. These new bags are biodegradable according to the European standard EN 13432 and are made in Mater-Bi, a bio-plastic developed by Novamont.

For years, Paris has been lagging behind in terms of waste management best practice, and Zero Waste France, a member of Zero Waste Europe has been at the forefront of the campaign to change their course towards Zero Waste. This has included an incredibly visual campaign against the renovation of the Ivry incinerator in the city, where they proposed an alternative ‘Plan B’om’ for the city. It is clear that Paris still has a long way to go to develop effective and circular waste management practices but this is a step in the right direction. 

Food waste, and other biowaste is one of the most problematic waste streams, and even more so when it is not separated at source. Biowaste, if not effectively separated can contaminate other recyclable materials and if landfilled it can produce greenhouse gases and toxic leachate. Our reports have demonstrated that the incineration of biomass in so-called waste-to-energy plants cannot be considered ‘carbon neutral’ as it is in many accounting systems and is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. . Indeed, if food waste was a country, it has been calculated that it would be the third largest “emitter” of CO2 worldwide, just behind the USA and China. Furthermore, around 88 million tons of food are wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros. Hence, keeping separately the collection of food waste allows to achieve several benefits both in term of money savings, energy efficiency and the circular economy.

We can minimise the environmental impact of the food we eat by ensuring separate collection. On the contrary it represents a reliable source of nutrients for our land and for the soil. After collected, bio-waste can be sent to composting. Natural compost is a soil improver that is preferable than synthetic because is toxic free and possess all the necessary nutrients. Furthermore, bio-waste from the city of Paris will be used for the production of bio-gas reducing dependency on fossil fuels. Anaerobic digestion is used to generate biogas which is used as a source of energy to produce heat and electricity resold on the grid or, after purification, to become biomethane, a fuel used to drive vehicles.

This project in Paris follows the example of the city of Milan, the 1st big city worldwide to organise kerbside collection of biowaste and could become another example of the feasibility of organising separate collection in a densely populated city and implementing sustainable collection of biowaste.

In this, Paris might still have a long way to go but they are going in the right direction.


Redesign Europe Challenge launches first of 3 phases

Press Contact: Lucia di Paola, Zero Waste Europe, +32 (0) 2 503 64 88

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 16/05/17

Today, Zero Waste Europe’s People’s Design Lab project has launched a new campaign. The Redesign Europe Challenge offers participants the ability to nominate badly designed products and vote for their ‘most hated’ products to be improved or phased out.

The People’s Design Lab is an international project aimed at identifying and redesigning poorly designed and wasteful products which pave the way for a Circular Economy.

The online platform targets products that break too early, that are not repairable, that are toxic, are not recyclable or for any other reason are unfit for a Circular Economy. The People’s Design Lab enables citizens to take action by highlighting the problems and identifying zero waste solutions.

The 1st online phase will run from May 16 until June 26. During this phase people are asked to nominate and vote for the products they consider to be most wasteful. The three most “hated” products will win the #Designed4Trash award. Additionally, participants can suggest solutions to the wasteful products to provide valuable information to like-minded people.

In the 2nd phase from June 26 onwards, the People’s Design Lab will push governments and the industry to stop the #Designed4Trash ‘winners’ from entering the market. From September onwards, Redesign Europe workshops will take place around Europe, where people can get together and think new solutions to the most wasteful products on the market.

The People’s Design Lab takes inspiration from the Little Museum of Bad Industrial Design in Italy, and ‘The People’s Design Lab UK’ where examples of bad design were identified by groups of citizens and attempts were made to redesign the products with zero waste alternatives.



  1. People’s Design Lab –
  2. Zero Waste Europe:

Revealed: who’s leading & who’s blocking EU waste policy

15 May 2017

EU countries obstructing key measures that would bring the EU closer to a circular economy are revealed – and they are not your usual suspects.

The European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe asked member states whether they will support key proposals to boost EU waste policy in the negotiations taking place in Brussels in the coming weeks.

Click on the map to explore different countries’ positions

Map: leaders & laggards of EU waste policy

The proposals, already approved by the European Parliament in March, include higher recycling targets for municipal solid waste; targets for preparation for reuse of municipal solid waste and reuse of packaging; better separate collection of all waste streams, including biowaste; EU-wide rules for producer responsibility; and objectives to reduce waste generation by 2030.

The investigation shows that ambitious reform of EU waste laws is under attack by a number of countries. If a regressive position is to prevail in the negotiations, plans to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the coming years will most likely stall.

Recent leaks (paywall link) of the Council’s current common position show that the laggards are winning out, despite higher individual ambition by some member states in areas including recycling targets, extended producer responsibility and biowaste separate collection.

At stake is the creation of over 800,000 jobs, one in ten coming from reuse, and €72 billion a year in savings across Europe. EU countries would also miss the opportunity to avoid over 420 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which equates to taking 4 in 10 cars off European roads.

Ferran Rosa, waste policy officer at Zero Waste Europe said: “Member States all agree to go towards a circular economy, but when it comes to making it happen, many are reluctant. It is time for Member States to stop being short-sighted and push for a real transition”


Countries opposing most of the proposals include Denmark and Finland – often regarded as leaders in waste policy despite their enormous amount of waste generated. Other countries set to categorically reject higher ambition are Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia.

While eventually supporting a 65% recycling target, countries such as the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Luxembourg and Slovakia are expected to oppose plans to make preparation for reuse mandatory, set a 10% target for packaging reuse and set waste prevention targets–all top priorities in a circular economy.

The UK, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Slovenia and Croatia have so far been unwilling to share their position, although some of them -like Germany- have in the past attempted to block high recycling targets and corporate responsibility. This unwillingness to share their position highlights a long-standing transparency problem during negotiations between member states, as well as member states and EU institutions. This creates barriers between EU citizens and their national governments, and is at odds with the progressive and transparent stance adopted by the European Parliament.


On the other hand, southern countries that generally struggle with waste management such as Greece and Romania as well as Spain are calling for stronger support for recycling, waste prevention, preparation for reuse and better separate collection.

Other progressive countries supporting the reforms are France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

What happens next?

• High representatives from member states will meet before the end of the month to define the position of the Council of the European Union.

• By the end of May, all three EU institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – will enter the final inter-institutional negotiations before agreeing on the final text of the new waste laws.

Trash Talk: Incineration vs. the Circular Economy

This blog is a guest post from independent blogger Laura Mahoney

Trash talk: it’s something that has become synonymous with overzealous drunken sports fans or reality T.V. starlets vying over the attention of a solitary eligible Bachelor. With that kind of competition, it’s easy to understand why literally talking about trash is slightly less compelling. However, rubbish might finally be seeing it’s day in the sun (figuratively speaking of course, because open air hot rubbish would be even less compelling). Debate has recently risen in the EU concerning the role of incineration in waste management systems.

So called “Waste-to-energy” (WtE) incineration is the waste management technology that quite simply generates energy, typically heat or electricity, from the combustion of municipal waste materials (MSW). Recently Sweden has even been making headlines for their “revolutionary recycling” efforts that have become so effective that they now import trash from other countries to keep up with the demands of their energy consumption.

We don’t need a technological fix, we need real solutions.

Turning our trash into energy is at first glance a party trick that is comparable to the likes of turning water to wine. But in-reality that comparison would only be accurate if that wine is the slightly dubious 1 euro bottle you find in the clearance bin at Aldi. It will still get you drunk, but the 3-day crippling hangover that follows will leave you moaning by the toilet asking yourself yet again “why do I always do this?”. 

We are always looking for the easy answer, but we rarely want to consider the impending aftermath. When it comes to incineration, we want to boast about our sustainable solution to landfilling but we aren’t really considering what is actually sustainable in the long-term. On the surface, waste-to-energy sounds like your classic win/ win: get rid of our waste and with it create energy. But issues arise when you start to consider how we define waste.

As early as the turn of the 20th century a need arose for a solution to the handling of our waste. And as the waste issue has evolved – so has our actual waste. A century ago, only about 7% of our garbage was from manufactured products (mostly paper or glass), whereas today about 71% of waste is comprised of products or packaging — most of it being plastic.

Infographic by Carlotta Cataldi for Zero Waste Europe

Waste is a resource, we need better solutions

Plastic changed the game in the world of convenience and cost when it comes to consumption. Yet we often treat this resource like rubbish – both literally and figuratively.

Not all plastic is treated equally, certain types like PET (i.e. soda & plastic water bottles) have the infrastructure to be collected, and sometimes even come with financial incentives. In Germany, you can get as much as 25 cents for one bottle, which I can share from my own personal experiences can even lead to some contentious arguments amongst certain flatmates about whose plastic bottle is whose…

However, flexible plastic packing (i.e. single use plastic bags, crisp bags, bread bags, chocolate bar wrappers, most frozen food bags, & more) are mostly considered unrecyclable, depending on what country you’re in.
This begs the question of why- why is some of our waste considered worthy of recycling (even fighting over) and some not? The answer is because nowhere do we define what is recyclable waste and what is not – and when we leave this definition up to national or local authorities, it makes sense that those who utilize WtE have a less forgiving definition, especially considering that most WtE plants have long-term contracts with these cities. Cities are stuck with these long-term contracts as well: since the cost of implementing a WtE infrastructure is quite high, to get their money’s worth, cities need to have a long term pay out.

Belvedere Incinerator, the largest waste-burner in Europe when it opened – Photo by diamond geezer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Incinerators are a barrier for high recycling rates

We can see this disparity quite clearly throughout Europe. In Copenhagen, where WtE is greatly utilized, 60% of waste is considered non-recyclable, whereas in Treviso, a city that separates 85% of their waste for recycling, the figure goes down to 15%. From this we can gather that what is actually non-recyclable waste is somewhere between 10-15% of what we produce, in weight that would be about 50 kg per European per year.
Europe’s incineration capacity is up to 81 million metric tons per year.

If all Europeans were to recycle the way they do in Copenhagen today we would need to more than double the incineration (221Mt) capacity in Europe –provided of course that we want to burn all the residual waste which is not realistic.
But if all the Europeans recycle the way they do in Treviso today we would need to cut current capacity 3 times down to 25Mt of incineration capacity.

For a circular economy we need to follow the waste hierarchy

As of December 2015, the European Commission has proposed a Circular Economy package for 2030 and the role of WtE is still up for debate. Whilst some believe that it can be a supportive system in addition to the circular economy, however, as seen in Sweden and Denmark, it is more likely to become a crutch for countries where recycling rates are stagnating.

Currently, Central & Eastern Europe have contracts for improvement to waste management systems that allocate 50% of € 5.4 billion EU money for incineration and thermal treatment. NGOs are urging officials to reconsider, given that this system is demonstrably unsustainable, and is also a huge financial undertaking.

If the CEE do not amend these contracts, they will be locked into a deal that uses a massive amount of money to build incineration infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, after spending that kind of money on a new system – you’re going to want to get your money’s worth of energy. These long-term contracts lull us into a false sense of security, and leave little incentive for innovation and sustainable redesign higher up the production chain.

Waste management in general has a lot of room for improvement, and the goals are achievable and actionable now. We just need to make the conscious decision to for once, look at the long term consequences of utilising WtE rather than revelling in the supposed short term benefits.

10 steps to zero waste, 20 infographics by Italian students.

In January Rossano Ercolini, Zero Waste Europe president, held a workshop on the “10 Steps to Zero Waste” at the Salesiani high school of Bologna. Two classes from the Graphic Design course took part in the workshop and started working to create new infographics which would summarise the Zero Waste Strategy. The students worked in small groups of three people over three months to create the designs. These workshops, bringing zero waste ideas to students in high school serve to ensure that the next generation of leaders have a strong understanding of how we need to redesign our relationship with resources, and waste.

The Zero Waste Italy’s and Zero Waste Research Centre’s staff will nominate the most graphically pleasing 7 infographics of the 20 that students designed and will then exhibit them in their Capannori office. Among the 7 posters they will award one which will become the new official Zero Waste Italy’s infographic about the ‘10 Steps to Zero Waste’.

Check out Paul Connett’s presentation on the ‘10 steps to Zero Waste’ for more information about the content of the infographics.

Stay tuned for the winning nominations being released next week!

Zero Waste Europe,  would like to take the chance to congratulate and thank the students and the teachers who worked on this project for creating these amazing works and for embracing the Zero Waste principles!

To see the full 20 infographics and comment on your favourite, have a look at Zero Waste Italy’s facebook page.