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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

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

Finally! Paris is pursuing 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.