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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Europe must design economic incentives fit for a circular economy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brussels, 10/11/17

The current European economic incentives to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic packaging in Europe need to be re-thought, new research shows.

Plastic packaging is the largest application for plastics in Europe, constituting 40% of the demand. When it becomes waste, only 40% of plastic packaging is recycled, while landfill, incineration and littering still represent its most common fates.

Although the European system of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) should introduce a strong economic incentive to designs products and packaging for a circular economy, where material is re-used for a long time or recycled, the current system fails to promote a zero waste design.

“EPR is an example on how the current economic incentives are not geared up to transition Europe to a circular economy” Ariadna Rodrigo, product policy campaigner at Zero Waste Europe said. “Within the current system of EPR, the products designed for recycling pay the same as those designed for landfill and incineration. This is not acceptable. EPR must reflect the waste hierarchy, where prevention, reuse and recycling are preferred options – in that very order”.

The report highlights the need for a system of modulated fees where the packaging designed for single use, incineration and landfill have higher fees than packaging designed for a circular economy.


  1. Report: More ambitious extended producer responsibility for plastics through greater eco-modulation of fees

Press Contact:
Ariadna Rodrigo, Product Policy Campaigner, Zero Waste Europe +32 (0) 2 503 64 88

“Deliver or pay”, or how waste incineration causes recycling to slow down

Is incineration compatible with recycling?

A common argument in the past has been that we could recycle as much of the waste as possible and burn what remains. In reality, however, incineration can discourage recycling. Here’s why.

Recycling VS incineration

In Europe, burning waste in the so-called “waste-to-energy” plants is an increasingly common practice. About a quarter of all municipal solid waste is burned in 450 incinerators in mostly central, northern and western European Member States. This practice is often presented as  a sustainable option to manage municipal waste. But trash is not a renewable resource. Producing resources that end up as waste requires great amounts of energy, which can be saved by recycling the materials instead of extracting virgin ones. Recycling is also more profitable and creates more jobs than incineration. From an environmental as well as social point of view, there is no doubt that recycling is the best method for dealing with waste.

How incineration is slowing recycling down

Incinerators are expensive to build, so in order to make profit and repay the investment costs, they need a guaranteed stream of waste. Therefore, “waste-to-energy” plants require municipalities to sign long-term contracts compelling them to deliver a minimum quantity of waste for 20 to 30 years, or pay fees to compensate the incinerator company for lost profits. With such contracts in place, municipalities commit to generating a certain amount of waste, instead of decreasing that amount while increasing their recycling rate.

A remarkable case from Italy illustrates this problem in practice. In 2002 a medium sized incinerator in Pietrasanta was built by the order of the regional government of Tuscany without the approval of the surrounding municipalities. The incinerator was managed by the private firm Veolia for 7,5 years, until it was shut down in July 2010. The main reason for closing down the plant was the violation of environmental standards, mostly due to inappropriate wastewater treatment.

However, during the operation, there was a conflict between the 6 municipalities and the plant management due to the “deliver or pay” contracts imposed by the regional government.

Municipalities had implemented a door-to-door separate collection scheme in line with European Waste Framework Directive in order to meet national recycling targets of 65%. Separate collection in the municipalities had therefore reduced the amount of dry waste below the minimum of 10 000 tons per year – the minimum quantity stated in the contracts. In response, the plant management demanded a total of 13 million Euros to be paid by the municipalities, which started a legal war between the years of 2010 to 2015. The municipalities, trapped in a lose-lose situation, ended up paying 5 million Euros of fines due to their unfulfilled contractual obligations, just because they had successfully implemented separate collection of waste.

Such cases are increasingly common around Europe, and especially in the United Kingdom.

In Nottinghamshire, the County Council refused separate food waste collection in order to avoid the fines for not meeting the waste delivery targets for incineration. Another City Council in Stoke-on-Trent has been fined for delivering lower than minimum waste tonnage levels at their local incinerator. In Derby the recycling rate have fallen from 42% to 31% over a course of a year, due to specific provisions on the composition of the waste in the contract with the waste burning plant, which encouraged the incineration of recyclable and compostable material.

The situation in the EU, and what the European Parliament can do about it

Because of misconceptions and sometimes poorly transparent decision making process, incineration is unfortunately still a common practice around Europe. Every year less than 40% of waste is recycled or reused, whereas up to 90% recycling should be attainable. Instead of selling the recyclables for reuse, which would be both economically and environmentally efficient, the “deliver or pay” contracts require municipalities to burn valuable resources. This approach is counter intuitive to the already modest European waste reduction targets for 2020. Not to mention that recycling saves massive amounts of CO₂ emission and can play an important role in meeting the objectives on climate change as set in the Paris Agreement. We currently burn 81 million tons of waste in EU every year. There is a potential to reduce the amount of waste to 25 million tons per year, if we implement proposed zero waste and circular economy plans, as many cities have already done. By 2030, EU’s incineration capacity could be reduced by 75% when all European cities would repair, reuse or recycle at least 85% of their materials, like Treviso does today. If we want to increase the recycling rate we need to stop financing incineration now.

The European Parliament is currently discussing the European Directive on Renewable Energy. RED II will be implemented in the following decade, influencing the choices of local policy makers and financial investors. It’s important that financial support for renewables is in line with the recommendations of Commission’s communication on waste to energy to phase   out   support   schemes   for   waste   incineration. The European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) will vote on the issue of renewable energy support schemes for energy from mixed wastes on November 28th.

Claims that recycling and incineration are compatible practices are misleading, as incineration stifles recycling. “Deliver or pay” contracts cause a lock-in effect and hamper efforts on reduction and separate collection, hence are in conflict with the European environmental objectives.

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
Follow her!

Have blogs replaced Grandmothers, and how does this relate to foodwaste?

How often do you check on your grandmother and how often do you read a blog? Just kidding. But there is a truth to this headline. It doesn’t have to correlate with how often you see your grandmother, but it is a fact that more and more young people turn to blogs rather than their family when they want to learn more about cooking, preserving fruits and vegetables or general household tips.

At the end of this article I have a tip how to connect both worlds (grandmothers and blogs).

Blogs play an important role to #reducefoodwaste

By sharing cooking tips and inspiring people to use what they have, bloggers help reduce food waste in households. It’s not only about cooking tips: many different blogs not focused on cooking raise awareness about food waste, for example by writing about start-ups that reduce food waste.

STREFOWA honors the important work of bloggers to #reducefoodwaste

STREFOWA, an EU funded project in Central Europe aimed to identify strategies to reduce and manage food waste, is giving visibility to the best European blog articles which help to reduce food waste.

Have you ever written an article to help reduce food waste? Do you know a great blog article? If yes, submit your nominations!

What can be submitted?

The articles can be submitted in all European languages, with a short abstract in English. Submission is open until the October 31st 2017. It doesn’t matter how old or new the article is (as long as it is published in time for the submission). In November, all accepted entries will be put to a public vote online, which will be supplemented by an expert jury

Timeline of the #reducefoodwaste blogger award 2017

Submission open from: 1.9 – 31.10.2017

Online Voting from: 10.11 – 26.11.2017

Announcement of the winners: 30.11.2017

3 Winners will be invited as an expert to the Transnational Blogger Meeting in Vienna, December 15th, 2017 (travel costs covered).

One last tip to reconnect with your grandmother!

My grandmother is a wonderful cook. Many Sundays of my life, I spent time at her house eating wonderful typical Austrian dishes. Now she is almost 85 years old and it is getting too much work for her to cook for the entire family. She sometimes takes us all to the restaurant, which is very expensive and just not the same. While writing this article, I came up with a cool idea. What if I went over to her next weekend and do the cooking under her guidance? I hope she will agree! Do you feel like joining me on this new trend and ask the best cook of your family to teach you a dish? If you do so, please write about it and submit your article before 31st of October. I’d love to read about how it goes!

Find out more about the #reducefoodwaste blogger award at:


STREFOWA stands for strategies to reduce food waste and improve food waste management in Central Europe. In this Central Europe project partners from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Poland will work for three years to improve food waste prevention and management in Central Europe to make our cities better places to live for all people. We will do this by testing strategies in 16 pilot actions in 8 urban areas, involving stakeholders and gathering existing knowledge.  This will all be fed in an interactive web-based tool that will help you make decisions and provide you with useful tips and strategies to reduce and manage food waste. These tips and strategies will be tailored to the needs of all stakeholders (consumers, retailers, farmers) along the entire value chain.

Find out more about the STREFOWA at:

Buying things may feel good…

but getting broken things to work again feels even better

By Haldi Ellam

Who doesn’t have a broken product at home waiting to be repaired? A kettle? A T-shirt? The one I see the most is the ‘famous’ broken glass screen on the mobile phone.

The interesting thing is that rather than repairing the broken things, many people just buy more things. In the case of the phone people usually  rather buy a new one than pay for any repairs. Can we blame people if the cost of the glass and the repair  service is usually more that 100 euros?

Repair is one of the most important principles of the circular economy and should be widely supported. In fact, it is vital that repairability is kept in mind when designing new products.

Fast fashion and synthetic materials have led to many people choosing not to repair shoes and clothing anymore. To make matters worse, shoemakers and other repair jobs are disappearing because skilled crafts people are retiring and no-one is able to match  their skills and knowledge. Thus repair shops and businesses are becoming even harder to find.

To encourage the repair of goods, the Swedish government has introduced a tax reduction that allows people to claim back from income tax half of the labour cost on repairs for appliances such as fridges, ovens, dishwashers and washing machines. The VAT rate has also been decreased from 25 per cent to 12 per cent for repairing bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing and household linen. Tax reduction is part of an ambitious strategy in Sweden to encourage sustainable consumption.

Another positive initiative is the worldwide emergence of Repair Cafés, where people can meet and repair their things that otherwise would have been thrown away. In these gatherings, there are tools and materials that can be used for repairing clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, and toys etc. There are also expert volunteers, who can share their knowledge in repair for all kinds of products.

Hopefully, not only the Swedish initiative will spread across the world, but  consumers habits and opportunities to repair goods will also become mainstream.

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
Follow her!

Big VICTORY: Under public pressure, waste incinerator was kicked out of the Spatial Plan of Zagreb!

Croatian Zero Waste Europe member Zelena Akcija  delivers a statement after news of a big victory for sustainable waste management in the capital of Zagreb, and plans for the construction of an incinerator being scrapped. Read the original article on Zelena Akcija’s website…

After more than 20 years of consistently pushing for the construction of a waste incinerator in Zagreb, the City Assembly last week made a decision to fought back to the public’s resistance and kick off this damaging project from the Zagreb Spatial Plan!

“We welcome this decision! Extensive attempts to build a waste incinerator are the main cause of many waste problems that affected citizens of Zagreb for years. After more than 27 years of our campaign against the waste incineration in Zagreb, city authorities finally fought back to the public’s resistance. This is a very important step forward in the chaotic waste management system in Zagreb which is the worst capital in Europe in terms of separate collection and recycling. This is also an important day for Zelena akcija / Friends of the Earth Croatia because our long-term endurance paid off and finally proved that we were right from the beginning”, said Marko Košak from Zelena akcija.

The throw-out of the waste incinerator from Zagreb’s Spatial Plan is a logical step since it does not have a legal basis in the National Waste Management Plan which does not foresee its construction and due to the high waste separation and recycling targets that Zagreb has to fulfil, on which we are warning of for years. However, the incinerator is still contained in the General Urban Planning Plan of Zagreb, and Zagreb has no valid Waste Management Plan, so we will see if the city representatives will be consistent with yesterday’s decision to stop pushing for the incinerator.

Poor and inadequate waste separation system, unfair payment method, numerous illegal landfills and inappropriate disposal of waste at the Jakuševac landfill are just some of the many problems that arise due to the persistent desire to build a incinerator. We are sorry that city authorities ignored the waste management system for so many years. We invite them to convene an urgent session of the City Assembly to discuss these problems together with experts and NGO’s and to propose quality solutions as a basis for the creation of a quality Waste Management Plan in Zagreb.

“Apart from the Spatial Plan, the waste incinerator needs to be urgently kicked out from other spatial planning documents in Zagreb and a new waste management plan that will establish a quality waste separation, recycling and composting system tailored to citizens and in the function of environmental protection must be created. All city representatives voted unanimously against the incinerator in the Spatial Plan, so we expect that such consensus will be reached in the next important decisions on the waste management system in Zagreb”, concludes Marko Košak, Program Manager for Waste Management in Zelena akcija.

MEPs seek answers over burning waste

By Ben McCormick

Waste incineration in cement kilns is being put in the spotlight in the European Parliament as concern grows over its impact on public health.

For years, the effects of air pollution on public health have been well documented. Increased cancer risk and immune system, respiratory, reproductive and neurological problems have all been linked to air pollution.

People living in urban areas have long been aware of the damage polluters such as traffic and heavy industry can have on their health. But fewer know of the issues caused by burning waste in cement kilns, despite the fact this practice is a persistent and growing problem. There are now encouraging signs that is changing.

Allowed under regulations aimed at reducing fossil fuel use in the cement-making process, burning ‘substitute fuels’ in kilns – also known as ‘co-incineration’ – has become increasingly controversial, especially in the affected communities nearest cement producers.

Understandably, those communities have mobilised against polluters and lawmakers. From a health and environmental risk standpoint, but also from the perspective of waste prevention. Once incinerators are operating, they need a constant flow of waste to continue, so initiatives to reduce waste are discouraged to keep those kilns fed.

Grassroots protests have had success raising awareness and in some cases halting the practice – notably in Slovenia, where local activism stopped cement giant Lafarge burning waste in its kilns at Trbovlje. Environmental pressure groups have brought the issue to the wider public’s attention as well, but they have achieved relatively little cut-through at a higher institutional level.

The LaFarge cement kiln in Trbovlje

That has now changed. MEPs representing local affected communities have been seeking answers from the European Commission about the practice; a huge and encouraging step forward in the campaign to change cement manufacturers’ damaging habits and bring the issue into the spotlight.

“I am deeply concerned about the negative effects of co-incineration in cement kilns on the environment and on human health,” said Italian MEP Piernicola Pedicini. “This issue was first brought to me by local communities in Barile after the Italian government passed a law allowing the burning of municipal waste as secondary solid fuel. Many cement factories now find it profitable to burn waste. I intend to continue this battle both at European and Italian level.”

Burning questions

Key issues raised by the MEPs focus on how co-incineration fits in with EU guidelines and regulations on waste and emissions and what the Commission will do to prevent further risk to public health.

In April this year, Pedicini and colleague David Borrelli asked the Commission what it will do to protect citizens from a practice ‘that increases the emissions of hazardous pollutants and endangers public health’.

Both, alongside MEP Ignazio Corrau, also inquired why refuse-derived fuels (RDF) are not covered by the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation.

Pedicini has also questioned what the Commission is doing to safeguard public health in Barile, where the Constantinopoli cement plant has been reported for breaching emissions limits.

Meanwhile, Florent Mercellesi of the Verts/ALE group quizzed the Commission over Spanish compliance with two emissions Directives and asked whether this needs investigating.

And in an impassioned written question about a permit to incinerate waste in Greece, MEP Sotirios Zarianopoulos challenged the Commission over the EU’s ‘green’ growth and ‘climate change strategy’ that, in his opinion, seeks to open up new profit margins for business corporations and ignores the harmful impact on the environment and people’s health.

Dual purpose

These pioneering MEPs have highlighted at an institutional level the struggles of local affected communities. And in doing so, they have reflected the tactics employed: challenge the legality and raise awareness.

For example, the neighbourhood group Can Sant Joan in Montcada i Reixac near Barcelona has been demonstrating and carrying out legal challenges against the Lafarge Cementos plant there since 1975.

Similar tactics are being used by the group Asociación de Vecinos Morata de Tajuña, which has partnered with national and international groups to publicise the issue of co-incineration and issue legal challenges against the Cementos Portland Valderrivas plant there.

A demonstration against the cement kiln in Can Sant Joan in Montcada i Reixac in 2013

There are hundreds more struggles around the world against co-incineration in cement kilns. Delegates from many will attend the Third International Gathering Against Incineration in Apaxco, Mexico on 24-26 November.

With an overall aim of finding local and global alternatives to incineration, the forum will discuss technological, economic, environmental and social waste management solutions in a series of talks, workshops, conference sessions and exhibitions.

Burn out

But what are the alternatives? Cement is already one of the most energy intensive industries globally and co-incineration is currently its preferred method of cutting down on fossil fuel emissions.

Uroš Macerl, grassroots winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize

Campaigners say burning waste in cement kilns is not the answer, arguing that policies and subsidies that support ‘waste-to-energy’ incineration should be shifted towards zero waste and clean energy solutions.

As grassroots campaigner Uroš Macerl said on picking up the Goldman Environmental Prize earlier this year: “Burning waste is madness because it destroys natural resources. And burning waste in cement plants is even worse: it is a crime because it poisons people and environment – and is supported by lobbied legislation.”

One thing is clear: legislators and cement manufacturers have a fight on their hands as the co-incineration issue comes under ever more scrutiny at local, national, international and institutional levels.

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
Follow her!

Sign-on Letter to the Green Climate Fund

See bottom of page for the form to sign our open letter to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). 

photo: (cc-by-3.0)

Dear Members and Alternate Members of the Board of the Green Climate Fund:

We are writing to express our support for ambitious climate action in the waste management sector and urge you to prioritise resource-efficiency, sustainability and development of local economies, rather than projects aiming at using waste as a source of energy, such production of Refuse-Derived Fuels for waste-to-energy incineration or production of cement.

Our alarm has been triggered by the project “Sustainable Energy Financing Facilities”, funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Green Climate Fund. The project proposal, available at the Green Climate Fund website, includes as an example of renewable energy technology: “Advanced waste management with production of RDF (refused derived fuels)”, side by side to solar panels and wind turbines.

The production of Refuse-Derived Fuels is not a renewable energy project that deserves funding from the Green Climate Fund  – it is a false solution that is preventing the application of the Waste Hierarchy and appropriate waste management system aimed at preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting programs — that is, aiming for zero waste.

Refuse Derived Fuel is made of mixed municipal solid waste, typically composed of approximately one third plastics (made of fossils fuels), another third of biomass materials such as paper, textiles or wood (which could have been recycled or reused), and one third unknown materials1. Refuse Derived Fuel is often used as fuel in the production of cement, or other combustion plants.

The use of RDF in cement plants or other industries cannot be considered a renewable energy project or one that fosters climate ambition for the following reasons:

  • The use of materials that could have been recycled or reused as fuel, represents a subversion of the Waste Hierarchy.
  • The use of plastics as fuels cannot in any circumstance be considered renewable energy, given they’re made of fossil fuels.
  • Waste-to-energy incineration increases GHG and toxic emissions with most severe impacts to the public health and environment of vulnerable communities in clear exacerbation of climate injustice.

Moreover, RDF is often used as fuel for cement production, even though cement plants do not have the means to filter volatile heavy metals (mercury, thallium, cadmium, etc.) that are present in waste, neither they can filter the toxic emissions with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and furans (PCDD/PCDF), which are banned under the Stockholm Convention.  POPS pose a global threat to human health and the environment due to their specific characteristics. They are toxic and persistent in the environment, can travel long distances and accumulate in the food chain.

In contrast, preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting programs — that is, aiming for zero waste — is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies available for combating climate change.

A zero waste approach — based on waste prevention, reuse, recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion — reduces greenhouse gas emissions in all of the following ways:

  • Reducing energy consumption associated with manufacturing, transporting, and using the product or material;
  • Reducing non-energy-related manufacturing emissions, such as the CO2 released when limestone is converted to the lime that is needed for aluminium and steel production;
  • Reducing methane emissions from landfills;
  • Reducing CO2 and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from incinerators;
  • Reducing pressure on virgin materials from forests and therefore increasing its carbon uptake, which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as carbon for long periods (thus rendering the carbon unavailable to contribute to greenhouse gases);
  • Increasing carbon storage in products and materials; and increasing carbon storage in soils by restoring depleted stocks of organic matter

In conclusion, we urge you to develop a sustainability criteria for the projects to be approved in relation to the waste management sector, and ensure the principles of the Waste Hierarchy and Zero Waste are given priority.

We enclose our latest policy briefing Climate Finance for the Waste Management Sector – Guidance for Policy-Makers and Project Developers, to ensure you have enough tools and examples to guide your decision-making process.

Thanks you very much in advance for your consideration of these matters.



Zero Waste Europe
Aire Valley Against Incineration
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
European Environmental Bureau
Friends of the Earth Europe
Environmental Assocation Za Zemiata
Friends of the Earth Croatia
Zero Waste France
Institute for Policy Studies
Zero Waste Montenegro
Zero Zabor ibe Basque Country
Ethiopian Society for Consumer Protection
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Californian Communities Against Toxics
Work on Waste, USA
American Environmental Health Studies Project
Don’t Waste Arizona
CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network)
National Toxics Networks Austrailia
Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development
Friends of the Earth U.S
Mother Earth Foundation Philippines
Center for Participatory Research and Development (CPRD)
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
Consumer’s Association of Penang
Returning Organics to Soil
Calerdale Green Party
Let’s Do It Foundation
Sound Resource Management Group, Inc.
VšĮ “Žiedinė ekonomika” (Zero Waste Lithuania)
Ekologi brez meja (Ecologists without Borders)

  1. Currie, J. (2011), The valorisation of SRF in cement kilns, Workshop and sitevisit: Production and utilisation options for Solid Recovered Fuels, IEA Bioenergy Task 32 and 36, Dublin, 20-21 October 2011.


How a simple 40-day experiment rocked my world

As we reach the end of the Zero Waste Week, where various experiments have taken place in finding new ways to live without producing waste such in our daily lives. This account from guest blogger Mirabai Weismehl Rosenfeld, details her experiment of living without single use plastics for 40 days. Read about her trials and tribulations below…

Have you ever been struck by how much plastic there is? On many occasions over the years, friends and I would comment on the ever-increasing abundance of plastic packaging that we were recycling or throwing away every few days from our homes. It seemed wasteful. After considering the true cost of production, even recycling, which is considered by most to be a responsible solution, seemed energy-intensive compared to the few minutes of use for which the packaging was designed. Plus, we didn’t even know if the city had the processing facilities to recycle all of the odd mixes of plastic. In Grandma’s time, it wasn’t like this! Though troubled by the situation, we would undoubtedly give ourselves a pat on the back for talking about our concern for the environment. I realise now in retrospect that it was merely that: talk. There is a saying, “When all is said and done, more is said than done”.

Fast forward to 2016. While on sabbatical in the United States last year, a friend of mine told me that for Lent she was going to give up eating meat. I don’t practice any particular religion, just my violin, but I was inspired to give something up for Lent, too. What would it be? 40 days is a long time. What would be a challenge and, at the same time, help align my actions with my beliefs? I got it! I decided to give up plastic – all of those petroleum-based SUPs (Single-Use Plastics). So, what does that include? It’s the disposable plastic water cup, coffee cup and lid, water bottle, drinking straw, ice cream spoon, styrofoam, cling film wrap, produce bag, etc. The list goes on and on.

Could I buy what I wanted without plastic waste? I wasn’t sure.
What would I eat? Would I go hungry?
What could I buy within these guidelines?

I really didn’t know the answers to these questions, so I would have to see in person with my newly trained plastic-detector eyes. As motivation, I called this an “experiment”. Experiments are low-risk, in the sense that they allow for failure, and I would simply do my best, learning and adjusting each step of the way. I posted on social media in order to be held accountable and also to see if others would be interested in joining me. Immediately, over 70 friends and relatives responded with support and 8 people in different locations around the world even agreed to do the experiment with me! I also got comments such as, “I’ve tried this. I didn’t last a week.” Most agreed that there is too much plastic packing in general, but sensed little hope for a change, blaming the manufacturers for giving us no options. Others suggested shopping locally from farmers or at farmers’ markets. This has proven to be, in every location I have lived or traveled, the most viable option, as there is little to no packaging. While buying organic foods directly from the farmers, I also intentionally decided to extend my experiment to conventional supermarkets, where the vast majority shop. I chose to make a statement every time, voting with my money, buying the products which did not use SUPs; and for those which did use SUPs, I called the company, expressing to them that I won’t be buying those products because of my experiment. My calls were usually received by a shocked secretary who agreed to deliver my message. I bet they rarely got such calls!

In order to start my shopping experiment, I decided that I would have to prepare some items, namely reusable cloth bags:

My loyal durable, washable and lightweight shopping bag – always in my pocket or purse

Mesh bags with drawstrings – ideal produce bags for loose fruit or green leafy vegetables

Solid cloth bags for bulk items such as grains, nuts, seeds or dried fruit

Some shopkeepers hesitated putting food in my bags, saying that they might get stained. They can get stained and then washed! I would gladly accept a temporary stain in exchange for keeping a plastic bag out of landfill. (By the way, I advise washing new cloth bags before first use, just as you would new clothing before wearing.) A year later, this system works just as well in Europe, where in supermarkets, it is required to weigh produce and print a price sticker – stick it on the cloth bag and then checking out is effortless. I bought my bags but if you have fabric and a sewing machine, you can make your own!

So, how was my first shopping trip? I was overwhelmed by the size of the monster I had just challenged. It hit me suddenly, like a rude awakening. I saw the plastic. I saw it everywhere. Whereas before, I had focused on the product inside, now all I could see was the plastic prison on the outside. It wrapped carrots and celery. It clung to fruit. Cheeses suffocated in it. Cans were lined with it, I found out. Every kind of prepared and processed food was enveloped in it. You will understand, too, if you start looking.









And I did not want to buy it! My new experiment was a kind of game, but at a certain point of saturation, seeing so much unnecessary plastic was repulsive. By being prepared though, I managed to avoid consuming 2 plastic shopping bags, 5 thin plastic produce bags, plastic clamshells, styrofoam and plastic cling film! An encouraging beginning. Unsure of the reaction I would get in a store not accustomed to Zero Waste, I admit that I was a bit nervous at first, but as I got the hang of it, I even showed off a bit. I got some attention from fellow shoppers as well as from the cashier, noting with curiosity that this was something different from the norm. It was so successful that I was convinced to make it the new norm. With this mindset, I felt like a warrior on a mission!

Many times in subsequent shopping trips, honestly I felt disoriented and hungry, not being able to buy what I was used to buying. Crackers, chips and pasta all came in disposable plastic bags. Yogurt, juice, and prepared foods were in plastic containers. Sometimes I would even buy a food I didn’t know – just because it came in glass or no packaging at all – and then learn how to prepare it. A friend of mine who heard about my 40-day experiment recommended the book Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. I borrowed a copy from the local library. The book is a marvellous resource, with a multitude of recipes for a Zero Waste lifestyle. One of the first practical tips I could apply immediately was shopping the perimeter of a supermarket – generally where one finds unpackaged produce, fresh meat, cheese and fish, or bread and pastries, all of which one could ideally put in bags or glass containers brought to the store. Other bright minds, such as Michael Pollan, have also noticed this supermarket design. Take a look next time you go shopping.

A typical shopping trip, using mesh bags, glass jars, a thermos, and a reusable shopping bag

The first few attempts were clearly the hardest, but gradually I developed a routine, and store workers started recognising me. Each time though, I would still get a little pit in my stomach, not knowing what challenge I would have to face. For example, empty glass jars are heavy and require the tare weight to be calculated before filling – some registers could not subtract that. On other occasions, managers would run after me, questioning the sterilisation of my containers and bags. I assured them that they were sterilised by the high heat of the dishwasher and washing machine. On days when I was tired, I would go to the people who knew me and understood without explanation. On days when I had energy to burn, I would intentionally go to different workers, ask for help, explain what I was doing, make suggestions and enjoy the surprise, shock or understanding on their faces. For example, at the deli counter, when I asked for cheese to be sliced and put in my glass container, the worker paused for a moment, looked at me as she put the cheese in and commented, “Ya learn somethin’ new every day!”

So, I came to the end of the 40-day experiment. Could I have wasted less and been more prepared? Yes. But all in all, I was quite pleased with the results. This is all of the plastic waste I created:


Buying food without plastic packaging is possible and I ended up eating healthier and saving money! On day 41, with the relief of having concluded my experiment, did I revert to buying plastic packaging as I had before? No, I realised that there was no turning back. It was a simple decision. Even if it is easier in the short-term to use SUPs and other disposable items, I’m willing to make the relatively small effort in order to avoid undesirable, and potentially disastrous, long-term effects. Not only do they create waste, use excessive resources, energy and money, but they also leach into the food. Why voluntarily eat disease-provoking chemicals? Better not to buy unnecessary packaging in the first place! All that being said, I must clarify that, contrary to what you may deduce, I do value plastic for its amazing qualities. What I am opposed to is its overuse and abuse, financially profiting some greedy corporations while jeopardising the health of life on this planet.

Regarding “Zero Waste”, I have found it to be a lofty lifestyle goal. Intentionally following the principles has significantly improved my quality of life. By being an example of the change I want, I revel in changing people’s views (most importantly, my own) on what is possible, acceptable and ‘normal’. My parents raised me with a strong environmental consciousness, according to the philosophy of Zero Waste, though it had not yet been named. When talking with various people on this subject, quite a few respond that they remember, even in their own generation, the times of glass milk bottles and cloth bags. In fact, this is not a new lifestyle. It is a return to the wisdom of our elders. In the past 70-some years, stores have made it increasingly difficult to shop like this, so that is why I evaluated my 40-day experiment as a tremendous victory! Globally, we’ve reached a point at which the way we are consuming is neither sustainable nor intelligent. It is time to wake up and take action! Educating oneself and consequently aligning one’s actions with one’s beliefs is positively empowering. If you already are doing this, I commend you. Share your story and inspire others.

My recommendation to anyone wishing to do this experiment: focus on the concept, not necessarily the number Zero. My shopping partner, doing the experiment with me, was striving for a 75% reduction in wasteful packaging and was successful! If you can reduce consumption of SUPs by 50%, for example, that’s a marvelous step! Even a 20% reduction is something. You might start by simply noticing plastic around you, whether in the store, at a restaurant or the bags that people carry on the street. Every little bit does help. In the words of Dr. Robert Maurer, “One small step can change your life!” So many of us are in professions that demand precision and perfectionism. Striving for that same perfection, as in a perfect 0% waste score, can be paralyzing. My intention has become rather to reduce waste as much and as quickly as possible, but not to keep score. Being the type of person who has the best intentions and yet is not perfect, I jokingly mentioned to my experiment partner that we could form the “2% Waste” Club. Our simultaneous outburst of laughter initiated the club.

What had started as merely a 40-day experiment turned into a chain of experiments, one clue leading to the next. Each successful one has, in turn, led to a certain personal awakening, if you will, becoming another part of my chosen lifestyle.

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
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Ireland’s first zero waste festival

In June, the first Zero Waste Festival in Ireland took place. Building on the success of other Zero Waste Festivals such as Paris, and Roubaix the festival was a massive success. This festival and the others which have taken place over the summer represent a new activity in the burgeoning zero waste movement. Here Mindy O’Brien Coordinator of VOICE (a Zero Waste member in Ireland) shares her experience of the festival. If you would like to learn more about hosting a zero waste event or festival check out our ‘Zero Waste Events’ guide!

An organic movement has begun in Ireland to embrace zero waste. In only a year, a simple facebook page for people interested in zero waste has grown to over 6,300 members. A few people from this group decided to pull together a Zero Waste Festival to feature zero waste reusable products, bulk food vendors, second-hand clothes swap, environmental stands, demonstrations and talks, and delicious food.

The festival took place in a community hall one Saturday afternoon and attracted a great crowd. In fact, the event was completely sold out with organisers having to turn people away as the venue was at maximum capacity. This sounds familiar as the same community invited Bea Johnson to speak at Trinity College Dublin earlier this year and again the event was booked out with people sitting on the steps to hear the talk.

On a personal note, I bought bulk walnuts, balsamic vinegar, rice and cous cous, and was thrilled to avoid the pervasive plastic packaging that is used for such items (except the vinegar). I also bought a natural scrub for my kitchen and bathroom and bamboo toothbrushes.

There were also workshops on how to live a zero-waste lifestyle and how to make your own household cleaners. VOICE had a stand and spoke about Zero Waste Cashel, which is Ireland’s first zero waste town. Additionally, the Conscious Cup Campaign, which is urging consumers to use reusable take-away coffee cups and asking coffee shops to offer discounts when presented with a reusable cup, was launched.

Lovely vegan food was available for lunch and I was particularly impressed by the ingenuity of some teenage boys who rented out reusable plates and cutlery (€1/plate and €.50/cutlery) for the diners. Compostable containers and utensils were available for those who didn’t want to rent out the plates.

The festival was a huge success and there are plans afoot to take this concept to other parts of Ireland. Currently, they are looking to organise a week-long series of events in September, to look at different themes like food waste, clothes/fashion, responsible waste disposal, reducing food packaging (growing and making your own), cleaning, gifts and celebrations, and getting the community involved.

Enthusiasm for zero waste is catching on in Ireland!

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
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6 ways embodied energy could shape policy in Europe

There are many methods for calculating the embodied energy contained in a product. In our latest briefing paper, based on research by Eunomia we explore how an embodied energy indicator could be applied to European product policy to drive the circular economy forward, increasing the retention of valuable resources within an increasingly closed loop. 

Embodied energy is a widely used and well developed concept, defined a the ‘the sum of energy requirements associated directly or indirectly with the delivery of a good or service’. For the circular economy in Europe, the recycled content of products, or their durability and life-cycle is rarely considered from an environmental perspective in the design phase. By including the concept of embodied energy in product policy it could be used to encourage the redesign of consumer goods to retain embodied energy through the use of recycled materials, extended lifecycle, durability or repairability.

This briefing puts forward 6 initial proposals on how this concept could be included and used to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the energy embodied in our products, and to encourage improvement in the circular economy:

  1. A per household embodied energy indicator for municipal waste
  2. Indicators set for packaging waste based on cumulative energy demand
  3. An indicator (as above) could reflect the level of recycled content in a product
  4. An Indicator could also consider climate change impacts in combination with the other factors
  5. Develop Combined Indicators Covering Embodied and energy in use for specific products – particularly consumer electronics
  6. Industry benchmarks on embodied energy for specific products. Developed alongside the Product Environmental Footprint pilot studies

The use of embodied energy in product policies could also reinforce our recent calls for the increased use of economic incentives in circular economy policy. Our report ‘Rethinking Economic Incentives for Separate Collection‘ highlights a number of different products which could be subject to new incentive based return schemes. 

The full briefing on embodied energy which goes into more detail about these recommendations is available for download on our website.


#Designed4Trash award: Styrofoam Containers

Styrofoam containers have been voted the 2nd most wasteful item at the Designed For Trash Awards, organised by the People’s Design Lab during last May 2017. Participants on this popular contest have also suggested sustainable alternatives to replace these problematic containers, which are responsible for an increasing amount of plastic pollution on the environment.

Styrofoam – what do we know about it?

Styrofoam comes in all shapes and sizes for purposes ranging from packing material to holding your soda pop, most of us have grown up with it yet what do we know about it?

Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic. Its history is surprisingly old, dating back to 1839, when German apothecary Eduard Simon, isolated polystyrene from natural resin. Over 100 years later, a process was invented to commercially manufacture polystyrene (including the foam version “styrofoam”) and the world of products, food and packaging was forever changed.  

Styrofoam has an increasingly bad rap as it has an impressive lifespan i.e. forever.  Because of this, it is now taking up vast amounts of space in landfills across the world, or is afloat at sea, where it is often accidentally eaten by a hungry turtle, sea bird, fish, whale, or whatever else mistakes it for food. In fact, Styrofoam has been labeled one of the top sources of marine litter. And all the while, this buoyant white substance is leaking harmful chemicals. It’s main component – styrene- is a carcinogenic substance.  Prolonged exposure can cause irritation the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, and has also been linked to fatigue, depression, lymphoma, and leukemia.  Disturbingly, styrene residue has been found in 100% of human fat tissue (source).

Many restaurants, events, and companies still resort to styrofoam, often due to a lack of awareness about alternative disposable dishware.

Needless to say, we must make some adjustments for sake of our health and our environment. Fortunately, it’s 2017 and intelligent, inspired people have come up with a variety of plant based food containers to mitigate the styrofoam apocalypse.


Never too late to move on!

Reusable Alternatives to Styrofoam

The best alternative to styrofoam containers, and other “single-use” take-away containers, are the reusable options. Simply, you can start changing the styrofoam trend by bringing your own food containers when eating out. The options are many, from stainless steel tiffins, to the classic glass tupperware or the innovative Boc’n roll (a plastic sack that you can securely bundle your takeaway in).  For restaurants that use plastic tupperware, wash and return them next time for your next meal there. They will likely be happy to re-use it!

        Boc’n roll

More and more options seem to emerge. In Switzerland, the company reCIRCLE has invented the very first system which provides restaurants with reusable containers for take-away customers. When the customer buys food in their take-away container, they pay a “deposit” on it and once they have used it, they can bring it back to the restaurant next time, and get another reusable containers for no extra fees, or simply get their money back. This is system is spreading out quickly in Switzerland and hopefully it will land in more countries!


Not only are these options more sustainable, they just sound like more fun to eat and drink out of!


Single-use Alternatives to Styrofoam

However, when these reusable options are not available and there is no way to avoid the use of a single-use item then there are several biodegradables solutions that in terms of “end-of-life” of the product are less problematic than styrofoam or plastic.

Corn starch – Essentially, corn starch based food containers use corn-based polymers (PLA) instead of petroleum based.  Because of this, these food containers look and feel similar to traditional styrofoam but can be composted.

Plant leaves – These leaf based food containers are rapidly growing in popularity because of their durability, biodegradability, and also, they just look really cool.  The process uses the pulp of fallen palm leaves and represses them into dishware.

Edible – Various companies have been making headlines as of late for producing edible food containers.  The company Loliware uses a seaweed base to create flavored drinking cups and the company Munch bowls has designed a wheat based bowls.

From the most preferred reusable options to the biodegradable single-use containers, we could see that in this day and age the negative impact of styrofoam is simply unnecessary. Making changes in our own lives, while also demanding change in food industry standards, is the way forward to a foam free world.

If you want to check out all solutions suggested by the People’s Design Lab users click here!

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
Follow her!

How to save the world, one reusable bag at a time

The results are in.

Everybody seems to agree on the fact that plastic bags are probably the most wasteful product on the market. The Redesign Europe Challenge 2017, launched by the People’s Design Lab, just confirmed it, and plastic bags are facing an uncertain future.

Plastic bags are increasingly being replaced by the the most accredited solution: reusable bags made out of organic cotton, canvas and even old clothes, and an increasing amount of people all over the world is supporting this transition. Last 3rd July, Zero Waste Europe and the People’s Design Lab celebrated the Plastic Bag Free Day, a day of action to #breakfreefromplasticbags and #rethinkplastic with collective actions all over the world and a viral support in social media being the 3rd trending topic of the day.  

Plastic Bags: the most wasteful product

The Redesign Europe Challenge is a contest launched by the People’s Design Lab to identify wasteful products and propose sustainable alternatives.

Participants nominated plastic bags as the most problematic #Designed4Trash item. While the average lifespan of a plastic bag is of 20 minutes, it takes 500 years to disintegrate in nature. In fact, plastic bags are among the top 10 plastic items trashed in the ocean and constituting a big share of the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris that are in the ocean now. According to Euroactive, the average European citizen uses 198 plastic bags in one year, which means that in European Union only we use more than 100 billions plastic bags per year!

What comes to mind when you think of a possible alternative? A reusable bag. Voters shared this as one of their favorite zero waste solutions, along with taxes and bans on single-use plastic bags and deposit systems for reusable bags. While all of these are possible, bringing a reusable bag to the store is the simplest option, being the most effective and immediate to implement.

Imagine you are running out the door to get to work, class, or to drop off your kids at school. You grab the essentials: keys, money, phone. Life is often too busy to slow down and realize that there may be one more essential item: an empty bag. Remembering to bring that one item could be the little step that leads to a positive global change. Well-designed shopping bags already exist. What we may need to redesign is our thinking.

Celebrating the International Plastic Bag Free Day

On July 3rd, the International Plastic Bag Free Day, scores of organizations and thousands of citizens took action to raise awareness on the environmental impact and hazards of single-use plastic bags, meanwhile promoting sustainable solutions. You can still join the global campaign! Are you ready? Here’s a great chance to make a big impact with little effort! Join the online event and send us your photo, shopping with your favorite bag. You can also invite your friends to join, and give them a reusable bag if you have an extra one. Never underestimate your ability to inspire.

Further reading: 

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
Follow her!

Roundup International Plastic Bag Free Day 2017

Zero Waste Montenegro’s plastic bag monster

This year the International Plastic Bag Free Day turns 8 and we have seen some spectacular actions! The movement to rid the world of environmentally destructive single use plastic bags continues to grow, and their ultimate replacement with clean, reusable and cool alternatives looks ever more possible. Across the globe we have seen an incredible range of actions, from sand sculptures in Catalonia to upcycled furniture in Uruguay with many more in between. Check out our round-up of just some of the actions which caught our eye!

A joint statement was released by a coalition of organisations including Zero Waste Europe, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and others calling for the European Member States to take the final step and ban the use of plastic bags, replacing single use options with more sustainable and reusable alternatives.

In Barcelona, Spain, activists and campaigners from Fundació Prevenció de Residus celebrated the 10th anniversary of the campaign they started “Catalonia free from plastic bags”. The event, where artists made sand sculptures of a sea free from plastics, included a collection of pictures of people preferring to use reusable alternatives.

In Zagreb, Croatia campaigners from Friends of the Earth went into the street to raise awareness of the people about problems with plastic bags​ and existing alternatives using​ a 2.5 meters large reusable bag with the quote (“Plastic bags are problem, I am the solution”​ and sharing reusable bags to people.

Campaigners from Polskie Stowarzyszenie Zero Waste put all of their efforts in many activities during the whole week. They organised a public picnic dedicated to children and their families in Warsaw. They collaborated with Eco-Polka, a local company that offered ecological education games for children. Furthermore, they creatively exploited the power of Social Networks to raise awareness among people by launching a series of “green talks” where activists and experts promoted healthy lifestyles.

Furniture designed from plastic bag waste in Uruguay

In Maldonado, Uruguay, you can find Alma Verde, that is a platform for reflection and generating ideas around sustainable design. They are currently investigating different ways to integrate re-used plastic bags into furniture design. For this propose they carried out a collection campaign in several points of Maldonado, like dreamdays college and startup co-work café.

Campaigners in Trinidad and Tobago distribute canvas bags

In Trinidad and Tobago, the Ministry of Planning and Development and the Environmental Management Authority staged a free canvas bag giveaway on the nation’s ‘Brian Lara Promenade’ in the capital city of Port-of-Spain. Volunteers also walked around the city handing out canvas bags to interested people and asking them to take the pledge to reduce plastic use. Members of the Public were also encouraged to personalise their bags by utilising a decorating table set up with stencils and paint for participants.

Campaigners from Zero Waste Montenegro launched a petition against plastic bags and in order to promote their activity, they took pictures of the plastic bag monster in the most scenic and touristic viewpoint of Montenegro, sharing them.

Sikkim was the first state in India to understand the long term disastrous consequences of plastic bag use and bring about a state wide ban in 1998. With the ban on plastic bags, during initial years shops turned to paper bag use. But now in recent times, this has been completely replaced by the PP (Poly-Propylene) bags which look like cloth but is in reality plastic, and just as harmful as the common plastic carry bag. Therefore, the use of this bag has watered down Sikkim’s plastic bag ban and made it ineffective. In this regard, campaigners from Sikkim are trying to bring a resolution for banning use of the Poly-Propylene (PP) carrier-bags within its jurisdiction by shops, hotels and households.

The autographed bag, with commitments to use reusables!

In Valencia, our talented zero waste blogger Mirabai and the owner of the organic store Flor d’Azahar gave away reusable cloth bags to the first 20 customers as a joint venture for a sustainable future. In exchange, those people autographed the campaigner’s bag as an agreement/confirmation that they will reuse their cloth bag instead of buying new plastic bags.

These actions represent only a fraction of the total activities which took place around the world calling for a ban for the bag. Considerable progress has been made over the past year by many organisations and campaigners. However, taking into account the impact of plastics on wildlife and human health the issue of plastic waste has rarely seemed more urgent. The success of Plastic Bag Free Day is central to raising awareness of this problem, and pushing for an effective ban on the non-compostable bag!

Rethink Plastic launches a summer challenge for the European Commission

Rethink Plastic has sent an open letter to the European Commission calling on them to propose strong and harmonised EU legislation within the EU Strategy on Plastics in the Circular Economy – due to be published at the end of 2017.

We call for concrete policy action on reducing, redesigning and better managing plastics, and challenge the Commission to think broader and bolder, including trying to live plastic free for a day. #RethinkPlastic!

Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs with one common aim: a future that is free from plastic pollution. We represent hundreds of thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State. We bring together policy and technical expertise from a variety of relevant fields and are part of the global Break Free From Plastic movement, consisting of over 800 NGOs and millions of citizens worldwide.

Read the letter


Ditching Plastic Bags: A Lesson from Africa

By Zero Waste Europe guest blogger, Christopher Nicastro

Ah, the dreaded plastic bag. We see them almost everywhere we go – outside our homes, on the side of the street, at the park, in the ocean. It’s a remnant, and token, of convenience at its worst.

But the times, they are a changin’.

Citizens and organisations around the world are working towards finding solutions to mitigate the use of plastic bags, as can be seen by the vast representation of ‘Break Free From Plastic’ members. Moreover, there’s no better time than today, on International Plastic Bag Free day, to shed light on some of those progressive countries that have bid adieu to the synthetic receptacle.


On the European front, Italy placed a complete ban on plastic bags back in 2011 and France a partial one in 2016, which disallows the use of lightweight plastic bags less than 50 microns thick. And while no other European countries have come to terms with a complete ban on plastic bags, countries like Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Finland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands have opted to place a tax on them instead, which has produced some promising results. According to a recent European Commission report on the matter, Ireland has experienced incredible success since placing a tax on plastic bags in 2002, reducing overall usage by nearly 95%.

Nevertheless, although we’ve seen success in taxation, it’s important to remember that we are creatures of habit, and unless plastic bags are ridden of altogether we might very well adjust to the tax as old habits resurface in the long run, as the Guardian points out.

On the other side of the spectrum, acting as the catalyst to the plastic bag ban movement, Africa has been making waves over the years as more and more countries put bans in place.

According to John-Paul Iwuoha, a Huffington Post writer and African entrepreneur, “while plastic shopping bags are popular around the world as a cheap and effective means of transporting small items, my findings reveal – quite surprisingly – that Africa is making more progress than others in getting rid of plastic shopping bags, and replacing them with more sustainable and environment-friendly alternatives.”

He’s absolutely right. Africa is leading the pack on the plastic bag ban revolution, and handily so. This is mainly due to their direct experience with the dark side of plastic bags, which pose a grave threat to their livestock and wildlife while also contributing to increased pollution levels, leading to clogged drainage systems, which later serve as birthing grounds for Malaria carrying mosquitos.

Of Africa’s 55 recognised states, at least 7 – Rwanda (2004), Eritrea (2005), Tanzania (2006), Mauritania (2013), Morocco (2015), Senegal (2016), and Kenya (2017) – have implemented a complete and total ban on the usage of plastic bags, while over 15 countries from the land of the Sahara apply either a partial ban and/or tax.

A market in Morocco where plastic bags have recently been banned. Photo by Tom Graham (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Africa’s not an isolated case either. Asia is also feeling the ill effects of plastic bag usage and as a result, countries like India (2002), China (2008), Myanmar (2009), and Bangladesh (2002) have instituted partial to full bans.

The EU is waking up to the grave issues that plastic bags pose on our environment and is working towards solutions. In fact, the EU’s response to reducing plastic bag usage is Directive 2015/720, otherwise known as the Plastic Bags Directive. Launched in April of 2015, the Plastic Bags Directive has the goal of empowering EU Member States to mitigate their consumption of lightweight (thinner than 0.05 millimeters) plastic bags, through a means of their choosing, in order to reach the following targets:

By enacting this mandatory directive, the EU hoped see ambitious initiatives and innovative solutions ooze from its cherished Member States, however, the results after more than 7 months are far from gratifying with many Member States doing the bare minimum or, in worst cases, not even following through on their commitments.

One thing’s for certain, if we really want to escape this plastic nightmare, banning, not taxation, is the key. This is especially true since there are simple, readily available sustainable alternatives like reusable cloth bags at our disposal today.

The fact of the matter is that we here in Europe need to follow Africa’s lead and ban the use of plastic bags outright, not put a Band-Aid on the situation.

That’s why today, on International Plastic Bag Free Day, let’s show the EU and our respective Member States that a plastic bag free world is what we want. Grab your cloth bags and spread the word!

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
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Ecopulplast project holds steering board meeting in Capannori

Rossano Ercolini, Zero Waste Europe president

On June 23rd the steering board of the Ecopulplast Life Project, financed by the European Union, took place in Capannori (Lucca).

On this occasion, the new pilot plant which transforms paper mills’ pulper waste into pallets was presented at the headquarters of Selene (Selene is the leading company participating in the Ecopulpast Project and is partnering with Zero Waste Europe, Lucense and Capannori’s paper mills consortium).

The pilot plant, which transforms pulper waste into pallets thank to a system of injection, extrusion and molding, shows that waste which is currently landfilled and incinerated can be easily transformed into valuable materials and products. The Ecopulplast project puts the often spoken about Circular Economy principles into practice.

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
Follow her!



An 80 year old activist, a volcano in the sea, and a banana peel cruise ship

Riccardo Cuppini / (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Written by Nina Thomas, Volunteer Content Creator for Zero Waste Europe

From the air, the island of Stromboli, located off the north coast of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea, appears quite literally as a volcano, a jagged rock rising from the sea.  In fact, it is one of only three active volcanoes in all of Italy and a UNESCO world heritage site. On this little shard of land, there exists a town, and in that town one can find Aimée, an 80-year-old zero waste activist. While she might not label herself as such, her actions speak for themselves. Nowadays, you can find her tending to her 20-something cats, wandering through the cool alleyways, or buying fresh vegetables at the market. At first glance, she would seem like a local, born and bred. But her history with this island is different than one might expect, because Aimée is not Italian at all, she is French.

How did a French woman end up on this tiny island? The story goes something like this – she and her husband moved from France in the mid-seventies, in search of the quiet and charm of life in an Italian seaside village. After only a year of living there, her husband realised the village life didn’t quite suit him as much as he would have hoped and moved back to France. But Aimée had other ideas. During that year, she had fallen in love with the volcanic island in the sea, and had grown deeply attached to the smells, the sights, the people. So, she stayed and ended becoming something she could have never expected – a champion for a better waste management system and all around eco-warrior.  

But Aimée came to this place to escape the dreariness of urban life, including the rubbish and pollution. Why on earth would she decide to take on this landfill sized burden? Well it seems Aimée was always of a practical mindset. A child of the war, she was always conscious of her consumption and careful to avoid excessive waste. Her pre-existing habits and values combined with her love of the island made for the perfect proactive equation.

Aimée with her composter

So, what exactly are the waste issues of Stromboli? Like many holiday destinations, it exists in polar opposite states depending on the season. During the winter months, the island hosts a humble 400 residents, and that number booms to 20,000 in the summer. The brief intensity of summer brings about more trash than the island can handle, and for as long as the people can remember, Stromboli’s waste has been shipped back to Sicily in one unsorted jumble, usually going to the landfill, recyclables and all.  Not only does this cause issues on the mainland, Stromboli’s streets are often littered with an assortment of wayward rubbish, looking for the right disposal bin. Instead, it makes its way down to the beach for a bit of sunbathing and finally a lifelong swim in the Mediterranean.  

Organic waste is another component of this export to Sicily, which Aimée aptly coined the “banana peel cruise ship” to describe the somewhat gratuitous journey these humble little food bits make.  She argues that using valuable fossil fuels to send these food leftovers abroad rather than compost them here on the island is quite literally a wasted opportunity.

As the world had rapidly entered the consumerist age, Stromboli never quite managed to establish an adequate method to manage the remnants of this consumption.  And with each year, as thousands of satisfied tourists leave with happy memories shared through photos and conversation, Stromboli is rapidly becoming an established tourist destination.   Business is booming, and so is waste generation.

The system was simply inadequate – it needed of a revamp, a sustainable way to sort all that trash! And while many people agreed with the idea, no one seemed to care enough to do anything about it. So Aimée decided to take the waste of Stromboli into her own hands.   She contacted Paolo Garelli, the founder of Carreta Careta, a waste pick up system that had been installed in other cities facing similar waste management challenges to Stromboli. Carretta Caretta uses a grid system of waste collection spots across the town.  People are given a calendar which tells them what day they can bring specific waste types to the spot where a tiny waste lorry is waiting. Ideally people do not have to walk more than 150 meters to dispose of ALL waste, including e-waste, green waste, and standard recyclables. Carretta Caretta is the perfect system for many Sicilian islands, because it’s pint sized pick up vehicles are able to manoeuvre the narrow streets and paths.

Even with no financing officially in place, Paolo agreed and in the winter of 2010, Aimée and Paolo began to implement the system. For Caretta Carretta to work, the citizens of the town need to be proactive and engaged with the concept and according to Paolo and Aimée, the people of Stromboli were enthusiastic about the idea. The first week in action, there was a bit of confusion regarding waste separation, but was fairly standard according to Paolo. A bit of extra communication seemed to resolve this confusion, and after that week people happily adhered to the calendar. For the first 20 days, things seemed to be progressing well and Stromboli had never looked so clean.

The ancient streets of Stromboli / Chris Smallwood (CC BY-NC 2.0)

With every change come a few naysayers, and this project was no exception.  Unfortunately, this particular naysayer, had some influence over the happenings in Stromboli. His name was Mario Cincotta – he ran a nightclub and a few restaurants on the island, and liked to consider himself the unofficial mayor around town. The Cincotta family had lived on Stromboli for many generations, and Mario not only took pride in this but also used it as justification to impose his will. So, when Caretta Caretta’s jolly trucks began to appear, the natural order (according to Mario) of the island was upset. How dare this strange mainlander come here and impose his silly ideas? This excessive waste separation simply would not do – Mario challenged the project and within ten days, Caretta Caretta evaporated into the air like the smoke of the volcano just beyond the town.  His only response when asked why? “It just wasn’t working”.

The thing is, Caretta Caretta WAS working. People were excited, the village was noticeably cleaner, and the new system seemed to be a viable alternative to a decades long problem. No, this was not an issue of not working, it was something more subtle and deep.  It was an issue of clinging to the remnants of a different world, one before climate change, before regulation, and before plastic ruled the seas. It was the conflict of the old way versus the new, of what once was and what is, of the power dynamics that ran deep in this old town. And it was bigger than just Mario. This moment highlighted the fact that the Strombolian municipality was not necessarily operating for the good of the people and the environment.

While the little lorries no longer amble through the narrow alleyways, Caretta Caretta cannot be considered a failure. Rather than admitting defeat, Aimée realised it was simply not the right time.  It was her attachment to this place that drove her to action, and it was the residents that stood behind her that brought her vision to life. This project empowered the community through conversation and choice. The people of the island had been given the opportunity to engage with a new and more sustainable future. It was an idea that some had never even entertained, yet now that it had come, and the seed was planted.  For many, that seed would lie dormant, a pleasant memory of correctly sorted waste.  However, the next time a sustainable measure came along the people would be familiar and perhaps that seed would shoot through the dark soil into the hot Italian sunshine.

At the moment, Aimée has redirected her efforts. If she couldn’t control all the waste of Stromboli, she would address the problem nearest to her heart – the banana peel cruise ship. Coincidentally, Italy has just passed a law allowing community composting. Because of this the country has seen a dramatic increase in community compost machines and Aimée knew this was exactly what Stromboli needed.  Once again, Aimée spread the idea, garnered support, and the town has just placed an order for the charmingly named “Big Hanna”. The Big Hanna machines were invented by a Swedish sociologist in 1991, with the desire to raise “awareness around misused resources and how dependent we are on our local and global environments. The machines are essentially large metal bins that automatically aerate and turn the contents, minimizing odor and accelerating decomposition time to approximately 6 to 10 weeks. Once the process is complete, nutrient rich soil awaits you on the other end. While Big Hanna has yet to arrive, Aimée lives each day with the vision of a healthy and vibrant Stromboli, alive with culture and community, and a whole lot of compost.  

And is Aimée concerned with what Mario has to say about the composter? “I didn’t ask, and I will not ask, what he thinks. To me, the only existing power is the law which respects economic convenience for its citizens. The law on community composting is the only thing that matters. Who know, maybe we will go back to the Carretta Caretta. But first, let’s settle the organic waste matter. This way, we remove one bullet point from a long list of materials (wastes) that the municipality and other waste management institutions have to take care of. The organic waste is OURS. It belongs to the island and its people, us”

And there you have it. Aimée’s story shows that outdated ways of thinking and biased administrative system are no match against a clear vision, a strong community and persistence. Oh, and also that it’s never too late to start fighting for what you believe in.

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
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The first phase of the Redesign Europe Challenge is over! Time to check out the winning (most hated) products!

From May 16 until June 26 citizens where asked to vote on the People’s Design Lab’s website the most wasteful products on the market. Today, we finally announce what are the three most hated products, and hence, have been awarded with the #Designed4Trash award!

The first place award went to plastic bags, with the second going to Styrofoam containers and the third one to coffee capsules!

Many of the people who took part to the Redesign Europe Challenge also suggested a fantastic number of valuable zero waste solutions to the #Designed4Trash products. Make sure to have a look here:



In the next phase, we will tell the stories of the three #Designed4Trash products: why they are wasteful, what their life-cycle looks like, what solutions exist out there and how we can transition to  possibly implement them. Stay tuned! More exciting things coming up very soon!

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Roberta Arbinolo

Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign.
She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place.
An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
Follow her!

UKWIN officially ‘earthMovers’

On Saturday 3rd June 2017 Zero Waste Europe member UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network) received an Earthmovers Award for Outstanding Community Campaign from Friends of the Earth (FoE) at Basecamp, which is FoE’s annual environmental festival .

UKWIN coordinator with the Earthmovers award

Accepting the award, the UKWIN National Coordinator Shlomo Dowen said: “Over the past decade UKWIN has been blessed with hundreds of dedicated, passionate and conscientious volunteers, who have made a real difference in their communities. I dedicate this award to all of UKWIN’s worthy volunteers, and pay special tribute to two of them.”

Shlomo spoke of Mick Bee’s sense of humour and Jeff Meehan’s extraordinary determination, noting that the culture of mutual support and camaraderie that they embodied, and that so many fellow anti-incineration campaigners continue to exhibit, has helped make UKWIN such a successful and formidable campaign network.

At Basecamp UKWIN was involved in workshops on the barriers that incineration pose to recycling and the circular economy, on opportunities for local Zero Waste campaigning, and on the great work being done around the country to tackle food waste.

Those interested in joining UKWIN network can do so via and those interested in helping fund the cause can do so via

Can Rome go zero waste?

About Rome and Zero Waste – Rossano Ercolini and Zero Waste Italy meet the government of the municipality of Rome.

On the 6th of June, a delegation from Zero Waste Italy and Zero Waste Europe president, and Goldman Prize winner Rossano Ercolini held a positive meeting with Pinuccia Montanari, the councillor for the environment of the municipality of Rome, her staff and the president of AMA (the municipal waste management company for Rome), Lorenzo Bagnacani.

President of the Board, Rossano Ercolini
Rossano Ercolini, receiving the Goldman Prize

The group focused on the fundamental steps Rome should take in order to begin the zero waste path, taking into consideration the important role of civil society, industries and political leadership.

“The plan is to transform the MBT [mechanical biological treatment] plants in “material factories”, removing all interests related to incineration as way to treat waste, and moving towards door-to-door separate collection of waste with the consequent reduction of residual waste. Home-composting, the selling of light-packaging products and reuse/repair practices should be encouraged also in terms of job opportunity.” Montanari and Ercolini explained.

Rome, a world leader? 

Rome could become an example for the world, showing how even a complex and highly populated city could work towards the zero waste solution, when strongly supported by the political leadership. For this reason, the local town hall has started the process to make Rome a zero waste community, formalising the zero waste observatory (called Osservatorio Capitolino), composed of the most important national environmentalist associations.

Dr. Paul Connett speaking at Network of Zero Waste Towns. Photo: Maša Kores

In order to facilitate this process from an international perspective, it has been decided that an international task force will be created, as proposed by Zero Waste Italy. This team of experts should be composed of representatives from Zero Waste Italy, Zero Waste Europe, individual experts such as Prof. Paul Connett, Jack Macy from the municipality of San Francisco and Jeffrey Morris, an expert in circular economy.

The task force would also have the task of stressing the importance of “Rome towards zero waste” as an international example, leading the Italian capital city to the “zero waste by 2021” goal.

This is a challenge that will need the cooperation of all civil civil society, the environmentalist associations and the political leadership.

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.


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:

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.

In defense of clean air: Slovenian community defeats multinational cement company

This article was written and produced for the GAIA website, and covers the victory of European GAIA member on the cement kiln issue. 
Thanks to Uroš S. Macerl and Eko krog, the Zasavje region of Slovenia has a reason to celebrate. These grassroots leaders stopped the world’s largest cement company.

Zasavje has the nation’s highest cancer rates, and the multinational cement company Lafarge had long polluted the area. When Lefarge began burning toxic waste in the Trbovlje cement kiln — a disastrous move for human health and the climate — Uroš and the others at Eko krog decided that enough was enough. They organized, and after 10 years of tireless battle, they won.

Today, Uroš is awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his commitment to grassroots organizing in defense of the human right to breathe clean air.

The Story of a Grassroots Victory

Uroš Macerl built and operated one of the largest organic farms in Slovenia on the hill above the Lefarge cement plant. Using his rights as a local land owner, Macerl worked with the community organization Eko krog to legally challenge Lafarge’s permit.

After Lafarge purchased the cement plant, the company began using toxic petrol coke (petcoke) as fuel, causing emissions of carcinogenic chemicals to skyrocket, and posing a serious threat to the climate (petcoke has even higher carbon emissions than coal). Then, the plant obtained a permit to co-incinerate waste in the form of car tires, waste oils, and plastic in 2009 — leading to even more emissions of cancerous chemicals. Burning plastic is known to release dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to man.

Lafarge tried to get away with this pollution through greenwashing and deception. After looking at the results of the emissions monitoring that Lafarge submitted to the Ministry for Environment, Eko krog found that Lafarge had been self-monitoring, without any outside oversight. Throughout the decade long battle, Lafarge would continually doctor its emissions numbers, even going as far as deleting data, or claiming a typing mistake when the emissions were much higher than allowed.

But the truth prevailed. Over time, Uroš was able to grow the campaign to become a large, people-powered movement. In 2010, members of his organization Eko krog blocked the road the Slovenian Prime Minister was travelling on to visit Trbovlje, and would not let him pass until he had heard their concerns about the plant. The Prime Minister would not hear them at the time, but promised to meet them later. He never did. So a few months later over 3,000 protesters demonstrated in front of the government, demanding that the Prime Minister not privilege corporations over people. In 2011 a group of mothers from Zasavje delivered a powerful message to Lafarge management to make their emissions data public. Meanwhile, Eko krog kept up legal pressure, holding government institutions accountable for continuing to allow Lafarge to endanger the lives of Slovenian citizens.

When the ever-deceitful Lafarge was caught using petcoke without permission, the campaign was able to close the plant for good, and instigated legal procedures against the Republic of Slovenia for allowing Lafarge Trbovlje to continually operate without a permit.

A global movement against waste burning in cement kilns

Waste burning in cement kilns has been wrongly heralded by industry as an “alternative fuel” and climate-friendly alternative to coal, and the industry has even claimed climate subsidies meant for clean energy like wind and solar power. These ‘alternative facts’ hide the true cost of these supposed energy-efficient solutions: that waste burning emits high levels of dioxin (a powerful carcinogen) , carbon dioxide, and other pollutants, and has been linked to cancer, respiratory illness, crop loss, and other such devastating effects. It is a step backward for climate progress and prevents us from pursuing much-needed zero waste solutions.

“Burning waste is madness because it destroys natural resources. And burning waste in cement plants is even worse: it is a crime because it poisons people and environment – the crime is supported by lobbied legislation. Zero Waste is an already implemented alternative in many communities around the world,” says Uroš.

Throughout the grueling decade-long fight, Uroš’s persistence and the community’s collective power created a blueprint for countless other regions around the world who are suffering from the injustices of co-incineration in cement kilns. In speaking about the countless setbacks and ultimate victory, Uroš stated, “We do have an advantage. The truth is on our side. We’ll never allow this story to repeat itself again in Zasavje region.”

All over the world, communities are fighting back against the cement industry and their dirty practices and calling for zero waste solutions. Zero waste means setting a new goal for how we live in the world—one that aims to reduce what we trash in landfills and incinerators to zero and to rebuild our local economies in support of community health, sustainability, and justice. It means valuing life over profit, and fighting tirelessly for the right to breathe clean air. Today, we honor Uroš, Eko Krog, and all of the grassroots heroes in similar rights around the world.

The Goldman Environmental Prize is a prestigious award reserved for grassroots environmental activists and is considered a “green nobel prize.” For more information on the prize visitš. For more information on waste burning in cement kilns and organizing around the world, see

The Solution: Zero Waste Conference, Madrid

Joan Marc Simon at The Solution: Zero Waste

Friday 31st of April saw the 150 people gather in the Medialab Prado in Madrid for the Solution: Zero Waste conference. The conference brought together Zero Waste Europe network members, university academics, zero waste activists and municipal representatives to discuss a wide range of zero waste strategies and examples.

The event took place in Medialab Prado, a citizen laboratory of production, research and broadcasting of cultural projects that explore the forms of experimentation and collaborative learning that have emerged from digital networks. The space, provided a great backdrop to an engaging day of talks and discussions. Throughout the day Carlotta Cataldi provided live hand-drawn illustrations of depicting the conversations taking place, producing a lasting visual representation of the conference. Luke Blazejewski also took excellent photos documenting the success of the event.

An illustration by Carlotta Cataldi from the day. Click to enlarge.

The event was opened by José Antonio Díaz Lázaro, General Coordinator of the Environment Programme of Madrid City Council, who explained the importance of good waste management for a city such as Madrid. This led into the first session raising the question of ‘Zero Waste at the Local and Global Level: Utopia or Reality?’ which saw Joan Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe Director highlight the successes and growth of the Zero Waste Municipalities Network whilst Diana Osuna from the Madrid Zero Waste Platform talked about the challenges and opportunities of organising for zero waste in and around the city.

The next session looked at the significance of the collection of organic waste to a zero waste strategy with presentations with speakers presenting progress in a variety of contexts. The case of the large city of Milan (1.3 million people) was presented by Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee Chairman, Enzo Favoino, whilst not a ‘zero waste city’ has made major progress with separate collection of organics. Ainhoa Arrozpide Landa from Zero Zabor in the Basque country talked about the evolution of their campaign in Gipuzkoa. Other talks in the session examined the myriad of ways that organic waste can be managed at the local level, from the goats of El Boalo – Cerceda – Mataelpino municipality in Madrid to the steps being taken in Catalonia and Pontevedra. The session ended with Beatriz Martín from the Compost Network emphasising the importance of decentralised composting at a municipal level.

An illustration by Carlotta Cataldi from the day. Click to enlarge.

Session 3 was a glance into the world of repair and reuse with hearing stories from repair shop Millor que Nou in Barcelona, the social and environmental benefits repair and reuse processes and the imperative for reuse in Spanish Waste Legislation.

The fourth session of the day highlighted some of the emerging victories in Deposit Return Systems (DRS). From the exciting initiative happening in Valencia put forward by Julià Álvaro fro to the nascent schemes and progress being made in the UK and Scotland as explained by Samantha Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The session also looked at the bigger picture for DRS schemes and manufacturers responsibilities.

An illustration by Carlotta Cataldi from the day. Click to enlarge.

The final session for the day looked at the challenges and opportunities facing zero waste municipalities and those aspiring to joining the zero waste path. The session was opened by Gabriele Folli from the Environmental Council of Parma, Italy, where a city of 200,000 has just reached a milestone separate collection rate of 80%. The session then looked at issues faced by Madrid as they attempt to overhaul their waste management system. This was followed by stories of grassroots projects in Agro-Composting in Madrid from Franco Llobera and the Vegetable network and local composting by Raúl Urquiaga.

As the day drew to a close, the floor was opened for questions with a number of interesting contributions from the public. Joan Marc Simon then concluded the conference


More Tourists Equals More Waste

By Erika Oblak, Ekologi brez meja / Zero Waste Slovenia

The municipality of Bled (with a population of 8,171 people) is one of the most famous and popular Slovenian tourist destinations, both nationally and internationally. The town is located in the foothills of the Julian Alps, on the picturesque shores of Lake Bled. At the beginning of 2015 Bled became the 7th Slovenian municipality on the road to Zero Waste. As a part of the recognition process we analysed their waste management data, and noticed a steep increase in municipal waste and residual waste generation during the summer months, starting at the beginning of June and lasting until the end of September when the data plummeted again. When we linked the data to tourist arrivals and overnight stays, and it matched perfectly.

Photo: Bled municipality

When I started researching tourism it became obvious that waste is one of its major environmental impacts. Hotels, restaurants and other facilities use a huge amounts of products, very often delivered and packed in personal single use plastic packaging. For example, small plastic shampoo and soap bottles in hotel rooms. Or personal packaging for marmalade, honey and butter served at breakfast. Multiplied by the number of hotel beds and the number of overnight stays, it gives a rough picture of the magnitude of the problem. Data I came across claimed that as tourists we use more water, electricity and create more waste than when we live our ordinary everyday lives.

Looking for a solution, I was surprised how little literature is available on waste management in the tourism industry. The majority of those I could find mainly discussed strategies and recommendations, but in most cases lacked the data showing the effects of carrying them out. Zero Waste tourism soon became a focus of the Zero Waste Slovenia team. We set up a project aimed at finding waste minimisation and recycling solutions for events, hotels and restaurants.

The events turned out to be the easier part. There is a fair amount of literature with solutions and examples from different countries, including detailed guidelines. We integrated those which correspond best to our solid municipal waste management systems and legislation, and included the Zero Waste International Alliance recognition requirements for businesses. Again, Zero Waste Europe member organisations and staff turn out to be a priceless source of information: with their help we came across some inspirational stories like Boom festival in Portugal or Ecofesta Puglia in Italy. Armed with Zero Waste Events Guidelines, tailor-made for Slovenian circumstances, we organised several workshops around the country, which were eagerly accepted by event organisers.

Workshop for event organizers in Maribor (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)

Hotels were a harder nut to crack. First we checked the requirements of various green certificates, which mainly require waste separation and some basic prevention measures. The WRAP program is a good source for the ideas on how to minimise food waste in restaurants and hotel kitchens. The share of biodegradable waste in all waste generated in an average hotel is between 40% and 60%. After a while we started believing hotels might be too big a challenge for a small team as ours.

That was until Zero Waste Europe’s Enzo Favoino came to our rescue (again). He connected us with Antonino Esposito, who started introducing Zero Waste principles to hotels in famous Italian tourist destination, Sorrento. Antonino kindly accepted our invitation to join the project and we slowly began to understand why we couldn’t find much literature. Every hotel is its own story. They are diverse in size, services they offer, stars categories they need to comply with, some have already adopted green policies, others have not, etc. Reaching Zero Waste goals requires a complete change of the hotel’s culture, including employees, guests and suppliers. Such changes are only successful if they are developed slowly.

While Antonino trained and equipped our team with his Zero Waste tips and tricks, we were eager to find a pilot hotel ready to embark on a Zero Waste adventure. It turned out the concept fit perfectly into the vision of Hotel Ribno in Bled. At the moment our team – with Antonino’s support – is drafting proposed actions towards Zero Waste goals.

The co-funding by the Ministry of Environment ended at the end of February with the closing event at Astoria Hotel in Bled, a learning centre for catering and tourism. Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini (Ecofesta Puglia) presented their work to a number of hotels, event organisers, municipalities, NGOs, waste management companies and representatives of the Slovenian Tourist Organization. Since several hotels and event organisers expressed their interest in Zero Waste, we are convinced Zero Waste tourism will become one of our success stories.

Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini presenting their work in Bled (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)

Globally, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, with Europe contributing half of international arrivals and about the same in income. More tourists equals more waste, and more waste inevitably translates into a larger environmental footprint. It is not just a problem in the areas where establishing an efficient waste management system is challenging, like small islands or remote, sparsely populated areas. Bananas or pineapples travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers to end up at the breakfast buffet of a Northwest town in Slovenian Alps, using energy and adding GHG emissions. Waste, especially plastic, became a huge problem also in terms of the decreased value of tourist destinations. Solid waste minimisation should therefore become an important task for tourism sector. Not only to manage its own waste, but also to support and participate in setting up efficient waste management of tourist destinations. After all: who’d want to lie on a beach covered by plastic trash or stay in a mountain camp with waste rotting nearby?

Zero Waste Europe at the COP22

 Photo by Rhys Gerholdt, WRI (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) edits by ZWE
Photo by Rhys Gerholdt, WRI (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) edits by ZWE

Despite the fact that COP 22 will sadly go down in history as the Trump COP, the Zero Waste Europe team did not miss the chance to participate in the climate negotiations and promote the work of zero waste cities, communities and recycling workers all over the world for climate action.

During the first week and in collaboration with Cities Alliance, WIEGO, Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers and UNEP, Zero Waste Europe co-organised the event Sustainable Solid Waste Solutions for Communities and Climate Change to discuss the best solid waste solutions for cities resulting in cleaner, greener and healthier cities as well as income generation and emissions reduction.

Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s lead on Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme, provided an introduction to the zero waste vision and its contribution to climate mitigation, as well as showed progress made by the Zero Waste Municipalities network in Europe and around the world. Vilella stressed the importance of including informal recyclers into zero waste strategies, especially in the Global South, where the millions of waste pickers are the de facto recycling systems.


Mariel at COP22


Precisely, the participation in the annual climate negotiations proved to be a challenge for grassroots recycling communities from the Global South once again. In this case the representatives from the Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers were not allowed to board their planes for no reason other than false claims made regarding their VISA documents, reminding us of all the prejudice and discrimination that vulnerable communities such as wastepicker women are faced with on a daily basis.

In the civil society space, the “Blue Zone”, the Moroccan group Zero Waste Skhirat organised a space dedicated to reflection on the use of resources and wastage with creative reused items and a programme of workshops on the topics of reuse and recycling.

In the second week, Zero Waste Europe’s Product Policy Officer Delphine Lévi-Alvarès presented the Break Free From Plastic Campaign at a side-event organised by the French Ministry of Environment to launch an international coalition of countries committed to “stop plastic waste” in the ocean.

Lévi-Alvarès stressed that plastic pollution in the ocean is just the tip of the iceberg, the result of a linear and wasteful economy which we need to address by adopting a holistic approach and looking at the root causes of this pollution. In connection to the climate change debate, she highlighted that the twenty-fold increase of plastic production over the past 50 years has led to plastics using 6% of global oil consumption, the equivalent of the aviation sector but with significantly worse externalities.

“If we keep doing business as usual, plastic production will increase twenty-fold by 2050, representing the 20% of the global oil consumption, offsetting the development of renewable energies and clean transport”, said Lévi-Alvarès, who invited the audience to join the campaign at

Delphine Lévi-Alvarès at COP22
Delphine Lévi-Alvarès speaking at COP22

Looking at progress made in the negotations, the Marrakech “implementation” COP – as it was nicknamed, in the hope of ramping up the sort of climate action momentum that should have followed the entry into law of the Paris Agreement – delivered a meagre yet necessary declaration (the Marrakech Action Proclamation), which reassured the global commitment with climate change in spite of the US election.

Remarkably, 47 of the world’s poorest countries grouped together as the Climate Vulnerable Forum, launched the Marrakech Vision with a commitment to generate 100% of their energy from renewable sources as soon as possible. They also pledged to update their nationally determined contributions before 2020 and to prepare long-term strategies.

Despite these highlights, it’s clear that after three years of breaking temperature records and with 2016 to become the hottest year on record, the climate crisis will not be solved with the current voluntary pledges to reduce emissions put forward by well-meaning governments around the world. Most importantly, pledges to reduce CO2 emissions need to spell out the actual strategies that will be implemented o reduce emissions, paying special attention to support the right sustainable strategies in all sectors, including zero waste strategies in the waste sector, which is the easiest, fastest and quickest way to deliver climate mitigation.

Cement industry in the spotlight in Spain


Between the 11th and 13th of November the VII Gathering of Spanish Network of Platforms Against Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns took place in Alcalá de Guadaíra, Spain. This gathering coincided with the release of a statement from 55 civil society organisations calling for an immediate end to the burning of waste in cement kilns.

A hundred participants from 50 different municipalities spent the weekend working on the topic of waste incineration, learning about its impact and the potential of zero waste alternatives to incineration, as well as sharing campaign strategies and discussing common actions for the future. The meeting ended with a demonstration in the “La Liebre” neighborhood, where a manifesto was read at the door of the Portland Valderrivas cement factory.


It is worth noting that representatives from the Platform of Impacted Communities in Mexico and Zero Waste Europe/GAIA were present, in addition to all the platforms against waste incineration in Spain. This made Alcalá de Guadaíra the temporary capital of the fight against waste incineration in cement plants for the weekend. Moreover, the meeting provided new impetus to the Andalusian Network Against Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns, as they met for the second time to discuss their campaigns strategies.

The successful opening of the gathering at the House of Culture of Alcalá included a panel of experts with José Luis Conejero, a member of the Platform Against the Incineration of Montcada and Reixac (Catalonia), Daniel López, former coordinator of the Waste Programme of the Andalusian Federation of Ecologists in Action, and Carlos Arribas, coordinator of the Waste Programme of the State Federation of Ecologists in Action. The three, together with Ruth Echeverría, biophysics expert from the Foundation Alborada, carried out a technical analysis of waste incineration in cement kilns from the perspective of employment, the environment and public health.


On Saturday, the day was opened by a panel including Mariel Vilella, ZWE’s lead on Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme, who provided an overview of the global situation in on waste incineration in cement kilns, including recent research demonstrating how European climate finance is wrongly driven to promote these polluting activities. The panel included an expert researcher on an innovative system of monitoring health impacts from cement plants in Mexico.

The network spent time on Saturday discussing campaigning strategies and potential common actions agreeing on a number of conclusions:

On Communication and Outreach:

  • Creation of a communications team to facilitate coordination between all groups in Spain and improve outreach tools to the general public.
  • Design and dissemination of a common slogan that summarises and makes visible the position against the incineration of waste shared by all the platforms of the Spanish State.
  • Support the declaration of an International Day of Action Against Waste Incineration, and propose to hold it on May 13, in memory of the fire in the cemetery of used tires in Seseña.

Campaign strategy, research and publications of studies:

  • Promotion of municipal ordinances against the incineration of waste in cement plants.
  • Promotion of studies on the economic costs of health impacts from waste incineration.
  • Performing a constant monitoring and control of data from the State Registry of Emissions and Contaminant Sources (PRTR-Spain) regarding the activity of the cement industry.
  • Present a report to Congress Members with the basic principles of the sustainable waste management: the waste hierarchy, proximity principle, precaution principle, zero waste, ecodesign and especially the non-consideration of residuals as raw material or products.
  • Strengthen ties with universities and educational centers and explore forms of active cooperation with these entities.

On support to Zero Waste and specific alternatives to Waste Incineration:

  • Support the work of the network Retorna and the proposals on Deposit Return System (SDR) as well as reporting the pressure exerted by the corporation Ecoembes against the implementation of SDRs in Spain.
  • Support the implementation of organised community composting systems.
  • Promoting door-to-door waste collection systems, according to the model already implemented in localities such as Usúrbil and Argentona, as an alternative to the monopoly of large companies in the waste management sector.

Once more, the weekend showed that the coordinated work of all platforms at the Spanish level is a consolidation of activism against this type of techniques and a boost to the struggle for the implementation of more sustainable and ecological measures in waste management.


The Platform Against Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns includes:

Bierzo aire limpio (Ponferrada, León), Plataforma contra la incineración de residuos en Los Alcores (Alcalá de Guadaira, Sevilla), 3mugak Batera, Olazagutia (Alsasua, Navarra) GOB- Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i defensa de la Naturalesa (Illes Balears), Residuo Zero Madrid (Madrid) A.VV de Morata (Morata de Tajuña, Madrid), Arganda (Madrid) Toledo Aire limpio (Toledo), Plataforma Albentosa Natural (Teruel), Lemoa Garbi (lemona, Bizkaia), Plataforma Almendralejo sin Contaminación (Badajoz), Plataforma contra la incineración de residuos de Niebla, A.VV. Palleja (Palleja, Barcelona), AVV. Trevol (san Vicents del Horts, Barcelona),  Moviment contra la incineració a Uniland de Santa Margarida i Els Monjos (Santa Margarida i Els Monjos, Barcelona), CEPA-EdC (Catalunya), Sant Feliu aire net (Sant Feliu, Barcelona) APMA (Vilanova i la Geltru, Barcelona), Colectivo de Vecinos barrio de Sant Josep (Sant Viçent dels Horts, Barcelona) A.VV. Trevol (Sant Viçents del Horts, España) Vall de Ges, (Vall de Ges, Barcelona), Plataforma Buñol – Chiva,Molins de Rei, Plataforma Antiincineració del Congost (La Garriga, Barcelona) APQUIRA (Barcelona), CAPS, TELEMIR (Montcada i Reixac), FAVMIR (Federació de Associacions de Veïns de Montcada), Hoja Informativa (Montcada i Reixac), Plataforma anti-incineración de Montcada (Montcada i Reixac, Barcelona), A.VV. de Can Sant Joan (Montcada i Reixac- Barcelona), Plataforma Morata de Jalón, Aire Limpio Córdoba, GAIA, Zero Waste Europe.

New zero waste comic released

Middle Pages of Fran's Comic

A new comic has been released by the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN). The comic, titled ‘Everything Goes Somewhere’ features intricate illustration and lettering from Frances Howe, and can be purchased at UKWIN website.

The illustrated comic is a work of art in itself and can be used to communicate the message that incineration has no places in a circular economy where we need to look towards zero waste solutions.

Within the first week of publication, the pamphlet has already sold more than 1,000 copies and is currently being translated into Bahasa Indonesia, making it more accessible across South-East Asia.

For Frances the project took 9 months of work from the conception of the idea to the release, and made up a part of their Masters Degree in Graphic Arts. The project received research and administrative assistance from Zero Waste Europe and UKWIN leading the the publication of this amazing document.

The front cover of the comic

The illustrator Frances Howe elaborated on their work, saying “My work attempts to generate debate and provoke more questions than it answers. I like working with visual narratives because they provide different ways for people to experience a piece of work. For example, do they focus on the pictures or the text? Do they read it in a linear way or take it in all at once? This makes comics an inherently democratic medium because the viewer has so much choice about how to interact with it.

“I wanted to make comics about extreme energy in general, and waste incineration in particular, because it brings up a lot of topics and questions that are not always easy to discuss; questions about energy, climate change, pollution, social and environmental justice, as well as consumption, capitalism, local democracy and community agency for change.

“My hope is that using a medium such as comics, which encourages freer thought and associations between things, can help people to engage with these topics in a way that gives them more agency to get involved in making change.”

The comics are printed in full colour on two sides of durable A1 card which has been folded down to A4, and can fold out to be used as a poster highlighting the necessity for a move to a zero waste world.

The comics can be purchased from the UKWIN website with discounts available for buying larger quantities.

Wood Waste: Recycle, Bury, or Burn? Jeffrey Morris Gives an Answer.

Wood Yard at Schiller Station
Wood Yard at Schiller Station

Whilst the European Commission is trying to shape a policy for the sustainable use of biomass for energy purposes as part of the revision to the Renewable Energy Directive, new research has shown that the use of wood waste biomass does not fit the sustainability criteria.

Dr. Jeff Morris, expert on cradle-to-cradle and cost benefit analysis is the senior economist and principal at Sound Resource Management Group, Inc., has undertaken research on the life cycle analysis(LCA) of clean wood waste management methods, which has been peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology earlier this month.

Sharing his findings with the GAIA and Zero Waste International Alliance networks, Morris explained:

“This LCA shows that wood waste combustion for electricity, heat energy or combined heat and power (CHP) is typically the least preferable management option from a combined climate, human health and ecosystems impacts perspective versus recycling into reconstituted wood products or papermaking pulp, or even versus landfilling with methane capture and flaring or use to generate electricity. Only in the case of replacing high-sulfur-coal burning that uses minimal emissions controls does wood burning for heat energy look slightly better for climate impacts versus recycling the wood wastes.

But even then wood waste burning doesn’t win out versus recycling for overall environmental performance including human and ecosystems health in addition to climate impacts. Wood burning loses versus landfilling with methane capture when wood replaces coal that is not high in sulfur and both the wood and coal burning facilities have better than minimal emissions controls.

In other words, wood wastes burn dirty just as coal does and only get a slight edge against landfilling when wood wastes displace high sulfur coal when both wood and coal are burned in facilities that don’t do much to control their atmospheric emissions.

This LCA does for wood waste combustion what Tim Searchinger, Mary Booth and many others have shown for burning whole trees for power or heat. Whether whole trees or wood wastes from construction/demolition debris or from logging sites, burning wood is not an environmentally friendly source of energy.”

The article is in the Early View area for the Journal of Industrial Ecology and can be downloaded for free until the end of September.

Further reading:

ZWE response to the consultation on bioenergy

Press release

Blog by Mariel Vilella, climate policy campaigner & associate director of Zero Waste Europe for

A vision of the future free from plastic pollution: The EU must rise to the challenge


A groundbreaking new global vision for a future free from plastic pollution has been released today by a network of 90 NGOs. The vision lays out 10 principles with the ultimate goal being ‘a future free from plastic pollution’. It represents the first step in a global movement to change society’s perception and use of plastics.

Scientists predict that without urgent action there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, threatening marine biodiversity and posing a risk to human health. Yet, despite the danger that plastic pollution poses to our planet and to Human well-being, governments and industry have so far failed to face up to the systemic change required to solve the issue.

At the European level, the development of the Circular Economy Package and the EU Strategy on Plastics present a major opportunity to fundamentally tackle the use of plastic and prevent the creation of plastic waste. This cannot be done without policy makers addressing the full life-cycle of plastics from oil extraction and design, to end-of-life.

This is the first time that groups from all around the world have come together to find a common solution to the problem of plastic pollution. It is the beginning of a movement which will lead to governments, cities and companies taking major action to tackle this ever-growing problem” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste Europe policy officer and coordinator of the European plastics alignment process.

European governments and multinationals need to face up to their responsibility for driving the irresponsible use of plastics and for the resulting environmental damage around the world, which often most affects the most vulnerable globally. It is clear that without a strong and coordinated effort and impetus by policy makers, businesses will continue to use plastic indiscriminately and the pollution will intensify.

The NGOs below call on the European Commission and Member States to strive for ambitious policy changes to lead the way to a future free from plastic pollution.

Want to join this movement? Visit the Break Free From Plastic website and sign up!



List of European Signatories

ChemTrust (UK)

European environmental citizen’s organisation for standardisation

Ecologists without borders (Slovenia)

Environmental Investigation Agency

European Environmental Bureau

Fauna & Flora International

Federation for a Better Environment (Flanders)
Friends of the Earth Europe

Health and Environment Alliance

Health Care Without Harm Europe

Humusz (Hungary)

Let’s do it World

Marine conservation society (UK)

Plastic Change (Danemark)

Plastic Soup Foundation (Netherlands)

Surfrider Foundation Europe

Seas At Risk

Surfers against sewage (UK)

Trash Hero World

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste France (France)

What is the “State of the Art” after Malagrotta judgement?


This blog was written by Miriam Scolaro, Miriam is currently interning at Zero Waste Europe in the Brussels office.

For over 30 years Malagrotta landfill was the largest in Europe, collecting municipal waste from Rome and several surrounding municipalities of the Lazio region. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recently ruled that the Malagrotta landfill is in violation of EU landfill and waste management legislation.

During the infringement procedure it was proven that municipal solid waste (MSW) was disposed in Rome landfills (until at least the 1st of August 2012) without being subject to the proper treatments, or the stabilisation of the organic fraction. By acting this way Italy had violated EU legislation on landfill and waste management, in particular because of conferring landfilling MSW in Malagrotta and in other 5 landfill sites without previous pretreatment, they were not in compliance with the Landfill Directive. Moreover, according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Italy is also responsible for failing to establish an integrated and adequate network of waste disposal and installations for the recovery of mixed municipal waste, incorporating the best available techniques.

According to the “Malagrotta Judgement” Italy, had not only violated article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive – related to waste hierarchy – but also article 13 , which establishes that Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that waste management is carried out without endangering human health and without harming the environment. As required by the waste hierarchy, landfilling is the least preferable option for dealing with MSW and should be limited to the necessary minimum. However, where waste needs to be landfilled, it must be send to landfills which follow specific requirements fixed by the Landfill Directive, with one of them being the proper treatment of waste.

This point is a key issue which was addressed in the ECJ judgement, because, to avoid any risks, only waste that has been subject to treatment can be landfilled. But what does that “treatment” mean and what happened in those Italian landfills? According to the Landfill directive treatment means “the physical, thermal, chemical or biological processes, including sorting, that change the characteristics of waste in order to reduce its volume or hazardous nature, facilitate its handling or enhance recovery”. The Court of Justice concludes that Italy was sending waste to the Malagrotta landfill without sufficient treatment and therefore condemns Italy, as the Court understands that this should include the proper sorting of waste and the stabilisation of the organic fraction, so simply storing waste as in the Malagrotta case is simply not enough.


So, what is the “state of the art”, after the Malagrotta judgement? The European Commission is currently verifying compliance with this sentence across all of Europe, while the conclusions of the Commission’s study regarding the implementation are awaited, the situation continues unfortunately remains to be almost the same in many landfills.

Although  the decisions around municipal waste are primarily local, the European Union sets out, in the Waste Framework Directive, the basic concept and principles related to waste management for Europe. The overall goal of legislation so far has been to have waste managed in a way that doesn’t jeopardise human health or damage the environment, with special attention to minimising risks to water, air, soil, plants or animals, nuisances through noise or odours, and the potential adverse effects on the countryside or places of special interest.

Drstuey (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Drstuey (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In order to prevent and reduce the adverse impacts of waste, it’s necessary to address the overall impact of resource use and to have an efficient and sustainable use of them. To do this, the directive introduced the well-known five-step Waste Hierarchy by which there is a preferred option of preventing the creation of waste, that is followed by preparation for re-use and recycling. At the bottom of the hierarchy, the Directive placed non-material recovery operations (e.g. so called ‘Waste-to-Energy’) and, lastly, disposal.

The top priority of waste management is the reduction of demand for virgin materials and the avoidance of waste creation, which is to be achieved by prevention – measures taken before a substance, material or product become waste – and by minimising the use of materials in products.

One tier lower there is ‘preparation for re-use’, meaning that once waste has been generated, the priority should be to make entire products or components able to be used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived, therefore, giving the product a new life mostly through repair activities.

If the product can’t be given a new life, the priority is given to recycling, including any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. The Member State (MS) shall take all measures to promote high quality of recycling and shall set up separate collection of waste for that extent.

After avoiding, reusing and recycling, the Waste Framework Directive places other recovery operations, such as ‘energy recovery’ by which waste is burned producing heat and electricity or, if no recovery operation is undertaken -that fulfils a concrete energy efficiency formula-, we find disposal of waste as least desirable option, including any operation intending to eliminate waste in a form that no recovery happens, be it material or energy.

Zero Waste Europe, as part of the Zero Waste International Alliance, focus on a more detailed and effective ‘Zero Waste Hierarchy’, focused on designing waste out the system instead of pursuing false solutions such as attempting to perfect incinerators and landfills. However, the Waste Hierarchy  remains one of the most effective tools enshrined in EU legislation.

The Zero Waste International Alliance's 'Zero Waste Hierarchy'
The Zero Waste International Alliance’s ‘Zero Waste Hierarchy’

Although, the Waste Framework Directive offers reasonable guidance to manage waste in a sustainable way and makes waste management plans and separate collection of some fractions to a certain extent compulsory, it has been insufficient not only to make Europe resource-efficient but even to ensure sound and proper waste management. Proof of this is that the recommendation of separately collected bio-waste, aiming at re-introducing the carbon in the soils while diverting it from landfills is far from being generalised or that the recycling targets of 50% are far from being met in many Member States, even if only looking at paper, metal, glass and plastic.

Aside from the obligations set out in the Waste Framework Directive, EU law set out obligations through other relevant waste-related legislation, such as the ‘Landfill Directive’ or the ‘Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive’, and the jurisprudence of the ECJ. The Malagrotta Judgement is one of the most significant recent cases pursued by the ECJ this case provides effective guidance on the implementation of ‘Waste Framework Directive’ and the ‘Landfill Directive’ and is poised to have a big impact on the disposal of waste.


Has the Italian capital learnt anything about this history?

In Rome the main question always seems to remain where to place another landfill, and even, during the last days, the President of Ama (the public company that provides waste management in Rome) Daniele Fortini has alluded to the possibility of reopening Malagrotta. Once again, the attention isn’t on how to make Italy or Rome resource-efficient but mostly about how to get rid of waste to avoid an emergency. A short-term solution instead of a long term one. (At this point, the approach from a linear to a real circular economy don’t seem to be among the priorities and this contradicts above all the EU vision and goals).


Has EU Law learned anything about this?

For long the EU has focused waste legislation on ensuring the proper disposal of waste, on getting rid of it with the minimum nuisances to the environment, human health or society. *The idea of a circular economy changes the paradigm by emphasising the importance of extending the life and use of products and material.

Indeed, the Circular Economy Package could be the best opportunity for implementing the Malagrotta Judgement by ensuring that we don’t need to dispose of waste anymore. However, although it introduces for the first time the obligation of separate collection for bio-waste, the obligation only takes place if technically, environmentally and economically practicable. From this point of view, Zero Waste Europe defends the elimination of the proposed and existing loopholes on EU legislation by making, for instance, separate collection of waste truly mandatory and ensuring that bio-waste is composted or anaerobically digested. ZWE encourages the EU Legislator to enforce this judgement and truly implement waste hierarchy by effectively making waste prevention the centre of all waste policies.

On the other hand, the current EU legislation does not seem to be working to advance the waste hierarchy, for this reason many directives should be revised – this is would bring policy into line with the EU’s intention – including the WFD. One source of “inspiration” for EU Commission in order to make such a proposal should be the Zero Waste Hierarchy, which proposes a more ambitious waste hierarchy, including a real waste prevention plans. If we look for instance at the economic incentives at the EU level, they continue to reward disposal instead of recycling. So, in order to increase recycling the first thing that should be done is withdraw harmful subsidies. Then in our vision it is also necessary to regulate incineration overcapacity in order to make recycling more attractive and, the EU should start promoting legal and economic incentives, such as bans on the incineration and landfilling of recyclable waste.

Resourcing the future 2016, London

The following presentation was given in the form of a speech by Zero Waste Europe Director, Joan Marc Simon at the ‘Resourcing the Future 2016’ conference organised by CIWM in London.

Is the Circular Economy strategy on the right track? Yes but it is still too slow, in need of some fine-tuning and to escape bad habits from the past.

The exercise we are undertaking is an ambitious one, close the material loop and turn waste into resources; creating a zero waste society from which the EU’s economy and environment should benefit.

How do we know if the Circular Economy strategy is on the right track? In my opinion there are three guiding principles to follow which shed light on the path to follow.

Is doing the right thing easier and cheaper than doing the wrong thing?

Today in many places in the EU mixing all the garbage together and have it processed in expensive ineffective facilities before burning it or dumping it in landfills is still the easiest and cheapest thing to do. Unless you plan to turn 500 million Europeans into environmentalists we need to change the way we do things and make it easier for the citizens to do the right thing whilst making visible the reward for this effort.

In this sense the proposals from the text of the European Commission and the European Parliament to make separate collection compulsory for most waste fractions, especially of biowaste, is a good one, as it will set high targets for recycling because it provides legal certainty for investment.

It is also good to make recovery and disposal activities more and more expensive so that recycling and composting become comparatively cheaper.

For this purpose fiscal incentives are very important; from landfill and incineration taxes to widespread use of pay as you throw systems.

The examples from the ZWE case studies from the network of Zero Waste municipalities illustrate very clearly how it is possible to implement aggressive source separation schemes in less than 10 years (in the case of Parma less than 5 years) doubling recycling rates and radically reducing the waste that is to be sent to landfills and incinerators; what is known as residual waste.




These examples prove that working on the upper levels of the waste hierarchy are more effective and cheaper than any other option and hence that the recycling targets set by the European Commission and increased by Bonafè’s report are perfectly realistic. However we warn about the danger of lock-in situations which can jeopardise the implementation of a zero waste strategy and also substantially delay the achievement of the EU waste recycling targets.

This applies notably to the cap on waste sent to landfilling which the EC wants to set at 10% of all MSW generated and the Bonafè’s report proposes to reduce to 5%. Whilst it is important to progressively reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, if we are serious about moving towards a Circular Economy we need to focus on reducing “leakage” from the system and that means landfill and incineration.

Failing to do so will mean repeating the same mistake that some countries committed when implementing landfill bans and which caused that the waste diverted from landfills to end up in incinerators proportionally more than to recycling. In the cases of Austria and Norway they saw waste sent for recycling decrease in favour of incineration. The graph below shows how landfill bans tend to drive more incineration than recycling or waste reduction.


We need to gradually phase out incineration and landfilling and the most effective way to do that is by using a residual waste reduction target. We advocate for the inclusion of a residual waste target of 100kg per person per year for 2030. Slovenia is very close to achieving this and Holland has set it as a target. Why not having it at the EU level to complement the recycling targets?


The EU needs to change the lenses with which it looks at waste management and complement the recycling targets with residual waste target to tackle the amount of waste leaking the system.

In a Circular Economy consumers and providers interests should be aligned when it comes to what they expect from the product

When I rent a car my interests and those of the rental company regarding the car are the same, we all want a car that works well, that lasts and which is easily and quickly repairable when I buy a phone they are not. I want a phone that works and lasts and the company wants to my phone to break soon so that I get a new one.

It will be impossible to have a circular economy for as long as the business model of producers is based on selling as much stuff as possible in as little time as possible. This results in wasteful products, designed for the dump, which break to soon and are neither repairable nor recyclable.

In a CE both producers and consumers should benefit from products that are toxic-free and designed to preserve the energy and the value of its components. If these interests are aligned we will see the amounts of waste decrease sharply.

For this to happen we need to design the right incentives for providers and cosumers. This goes beyond waste legislation and entails working on extended warranties, products passports, facilitating information about life-expectancy of the product, reduced VAT for second hand and repaired products, changing depreciation rules to adapt them to the new extended lifes of products and progressive green procurement rules.

A basic point that is relevant for the discussion on waste is the creation of a feed-back mechanism between waste and design in order to avoid the product becoming waste in the future.

In the following graph about EPR we can see how in Europe the implementation of EPR is still not covering most of the products – 55% not covered and is performing poorly for those that are covered by EPR with only 18% of a product’s waste is collected through EPR.


With these results it is clear that the EPR schemes should improve their performance but we should also consider expanding the scope of EPR to cover more product categories than the current ones packaging, ELV, batteries, tyres, WEEE-. Expired medication, phytopharmaceutical products, textiles, domestic linen and shoes, domestic chemical products, graphic paper, lubricants, frying oils, construction & demolition materials (C&D), printer cartridges, fluorinated refrigerants or nappies are all potential targets. In fact we should reverse the question and ask, of the 70% of the waste products, which product categories should be exempted from producer responsibility?

In France they have alreadymodulated producer responsibility fees according to the circularity of the product, we should explore a similar approach for Europe.

Finally, there are some items that should have no place in a Circular Economy and would need to be banned outright, microplastics in cosmetic products are just one example.

The prospects for the Circular Economy package look bright and after a soft start from the side of the European Commission it looks like the European Parliament with the Bonafè report is committed to raising the stakes. A fantastic opportunity to create jobs and economic activity in Europe whilst reducing the burden on environment and moving towards Zero Waste Europe.

Press Release: Bonafè shows more ambition than the Commission, yet is still far from zero waste

S&D MEP Simona Bonafè  presented today the draft reports on the waste directives under review. Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) sees them as a positive step forward from European Commission’s text, but is disappointed by the absence of some specific targets and the lack of concrete binding measures necessary on the path to Zero Waste.

ZWE notes positively the emphasis given to waste prevention with the inclusion of new obligations for Member States on marine litter, food waste prevention and the reduction of single-use products. However, ZWE regrets that the targets proposed by the rapporteur on food waste and marine litter are only aspirational and not country specific targets, instead being EU-wide without clear local goals.

Despite raising the recycling target for 2030 to 70%, the report does not propose to cap the tonnage of waste that is sent to disposal, be it incineration or landfill. According to Joan Marc Simon, ZWE’s Executive Director, “EU policy makers still focus too much on the percentage of waste landfilled and too little on the kilos of waste disposed”. In this context, countries producing high amounts of waste and landfilling little have no incentive to improve. Mr Simon added that “a cap on residual waste sent to landfills and incinerators is the only way of pushing for high recycling and waste prevention at the same time”.

Matt Martin CC-BY-NC 2.0
Matt Martin CC-BY-NC 2.0

Despite the push for EPR (extended producer responsibility) as a tool for eco-design, ZWE believes these changes are still too weak to address problematic streams such as textiles, hygiene products, hazardous waste from households, and furniture. However ZWE welcomes  the efforts to phase out toxicity as a precondition for circular economy.

ZWE also welcomes the clarity given by the new definitions and elimination of loopholes, chiefly by making waste separate collection truly compulsory and by eliminating a ‘double-calculation’ method. Nevertheless ZWE warns about the confusing definition of residual waste included in the package.

The changes proposed for the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive  are a positive step towards increased resource efficiency. The inclusion of packaging re-use targets and the call for a EU-wide deposit-scheme for re-usable packaging are also to be welcomed. However ZWE believes that the proposed re-use targets are too low to stop the downward trend in the use refillable packaging.

Despite a modest increase of recycling targets for all materials by 2025, ZWE is disappointed by the lack of a recycling target for plastic packaging for 2030, and for multimaterial multi-layered packaging despite them being two of the fastest growing types of packaging. More concretely the EU should require a prevention target for plastic packaging.

Overall Bonafè’s report has managed to bring back the ambition that the European Commission missed in the December’s proposal but despite being a step in the right direction it is still insufficient to create a Circular Economy in Europe.




Ferran ROSA, Policy Officer +32 470 838 105 / +34 667 88 91 83



Text of the reports

Waste Directive

Landfill Directive

Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

Policy Briefing: the Waste Sector under the Effort Sharing Decision

Today, Zero Waste Europe released a new policy briefing on the waste sector under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) with key recommendations to ensure real GHG emission reductions in the waste sector.

Read the full Policy Briefing

Greenpeace volunteers end incinerator occupation. Eleven Greenpeace volunteers ended their occupation of Sheffield incinerator after protecting the people of the city of polluting gases for three days. The volunteers occupying the plant maintain that they acted lawfully but have agreed to comply with an injunction from Leeds High Court ©Greenpeace/Sims GREENPEACE HANDOUT/NO ARCHIVING /NO MAGAZINES
Greenpeace volunteers end incinerator occupation.
Eleven Greenpeace volunteers ended their occupation of Sheffield incinerator after protecting the people of the city of polluting gases for three days.

The Effort Sharing Decision, which will set targets for GHG emission reduction in the waste sector for 2030, has so far considered only a portion of emissions in the waste sector, mainly those related to landfills and incinerators.

However, this assumption is misguided and incorrect, as the waste sector involves a much larger range of activities and a much larger portion of GHG emissions that unfortunately go unaccounted. In fact, the waste sectors contribution to GHG emission reduction has enormous potential when support is given to the higher tiers of the Waste hierarchy -including reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, biogas generation, sustainable consumption and production, and it can be a game-changer to the development of a low-carbon economy.

“The waste sector is a large and untapped sector with a significant potential for cost effective mitigation.”

Looking at the potential contribution of the waste sector to a low-carbon economy, recent research calculated the climate contribution from the optimal implementation of the Circular Economy Package waste targets (2014 version). Assuming the implementation of a 70% recycling, 30% of food waste reduction, and an 80% recycling of packaging waste, the EU would save 190 million/tones CO2 -eq/year, which would be the equivalent to the total annual emissions of the Netherlands.


“Unreported emissions from incineration of waste act as a loophole in the EU GHG emission accounting”

The Effort Sharing Decision 2030 framework has the potential to further reduce emissions in the waste sector, and this is an opportunity that should not be missed. In order to deliver effective GHG emission reductions, the new 2030 framework should follow some key recommendations both for the overall framework and in particular for the waste sector:

  1. Be aligned with the Circular Economy Package and the Waste Hierarchy, ensure support for the most environmental and cost-effective options for reducing emissions in the waste sector. This will lead to significant GHG emission reductions and reinforce the synergies between European climate, energy and waste legislation.
  2. Increase ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, with a long-term goal to limit temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts for limiting it to 1.5°C. This will require the development of a solid set of guidelines and robust governance to ensure the effective implementation of sectoral policies.
  3. Avoid loopholes and apply the correct carbon accounting of biogenic emissions from biowaste or biomass. The reformed ESD should contribute to correct carbon accounting of bioenergy emissions and secure strict compliance with bioenergy sustainability criteria in order to guarantee real emissions savings.
  4. Avoid the use of surplus allowances from the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) to increase the appropriate incentives for the development of a low-carbon economy where real emissions reductions are guaranteed.
  5. Support Member States’ ability to meet their climate targets and provide guidance for governance and compliance, including annual reduction targets and effective corrective actions to avoid non-compliance as well as transparency mechanisms to allow effective monitoring of Member States’ action.

With the incorporation of these recommendations Effort Sharing Decision would dramatically increase its effectiveness in tackling greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the otherwise underestimated portion from the waste sector.

Read and download the full policy briefing on our website

Network of Zero Waste Towns meeting in Capannori

Zero Waste Network of Towns Meeting (Capannori)

On May 20th, 21st and 22nd the first Zero Waste European city, Capannori (Italy) hosted a meeting of the Network of Zero Waste Cities. The event intended to bring together local authorities and civil society organisations so as to exchange good practices on waste management.

The meeting started on Friday the 20th with the welcoming words of the mayor of Capannori, Luca Menesini, and Rossano Ercolini, President of Zero Waste Italy, which were followed by the presentation of four cases of cities working towards zero waste: Capannori and Parma (Italy), Hernani (Basque Country) and Miramas (France).

The presentation served to showcase how zero waste can be implemented and be the driver of waste management policies in different legal realities in which municipalities have a different range of competences. In all these cases, political will along with the engagement of civil society has been the key driver for transition.

Next, Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe and Enzo Favoino, Coordinator of the Scientific Committee of Zero Waste Europe, presented the ‘network of Zero Waste cities’ and the steps for a city to become a zero waste municipality.

In the afternoon, a study visit was organised to the reuse centre Daccapo, to the Technological Pole of Lucca and to the Zero Waste Research Centre of Capannori.

Joan Marc on the Network of Towns Panel
Network of Towns panel with Joan Marc Simon

On the 21st the participants learned about the specificities of the separate collection system in Capannori and the Mamme No Inceneritore movement that is fighting for Zero Waste and against incineration in Florence was presented and who helped organise the 20,000 strong demonstration in Florence on May 14th. This was followed by a conference was devoted to the citizen-led legislative initiative on Zero Waste that is under discussion at the Italian Parliament. Three specific workshops on ‘supporting and controlling Zero Waste cities’, ‘waste collection companies and Zero Waste’ and ‘innovation and Circular Economy’ were organised. After that, a visit to the Zero Waste shop Efecorta was organised.

The meeting concluded on the 22nd with an award ceremony to Italian companies committed to Zero Waste or innovating to reduce waste.

20,000 people oppose incineration in Florence

Tens of thousands of people marched in Florence, Italy on Saturday May 14th, in opposition to the incineration project in the city. With over 200 groups supporting the action over 20,000 people turned out to express their opposition to the incinerator. Around the world campaigning groups and activists demonstrated their support for the people of Florence.

Watch Zero Waste Italy’s video from the demonstration:

The local group Mamme No Incineritore had a strong presence on the demonstration, presenting a powerful message of opposition to the incineration plans for Florence.

Mamme No Incineritore, Florence, May 14th
Mamme No Incineritore, Florence, May 14th

Campaigners from Za Zemiata (Friends of the Earth) Bulgaria organised a solidarity action with messages in support of the demonstration in Florence.

In the UK, the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) sent a message of support from their Annual General Meeting to the people of Florence. Stating ‘DON’T BURN OUR FUTURE’.

UKWIN demonstrating solidarity with Florence at their AGM
UKWIN demonstrating solidarity with Florence at their AGM

Other groups who expressed their support included the Philippine Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition.

Overall the massive demonstration of opposition to the incinerator in Florence struck a significant blow to the Italian plans, and signified an important victory for the zero waste movement in Italy, demonstrating their strength and unity in fighting for a new waste paradigm, which follows the Waste Hierarchy and puts the idea of burning waste on the trash heap where it belongs.

EU Bioenergy: Time to follow the Waste Hierarchy

Zero Waste Europe’s response to the public consultation on the EU’s post-2020 sustainable bioenergy policy.

Compost from separately collected foodwaste

Today, the Zero Waste Europe network and many other organisations around the world have called on the European Commission to use the Waste Hierarchy to guide the EU’s post-2020 sustainable bioenergy policy and phase out harmful subsidies that support energy from organic waste incineration. According to the Waste Hierarchy, biowaste should first beprevented , then fed to humans or animals, and finally used for composting or anaerobic digestion, as these are solutions that can deliver the greatest greenhouse gas emission reductions, as well as other co-benefits.

Click here to read our full submission to the Bioenergy Consultation.

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, UK: We must stop investing in damaging incineration that runs counter to the idea of a circular economy and undermines a waste hierarchy which prioritises waste prevention, recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion.

The main recommendations for a Sustainable Bioenergy Policy, included in Zero Waste Europe’s official response to the consultation are:

1. EU climate and energy policies should be aligned with the Waste Hierarchy embedded in the Circular Economy Package, respecting the priority for reduction or composting/Anaerobic Digestion, before incineration.

It is time for the EU Climate and Energy Policy to fully account for the contribution of the waste sector to a Low Carbon Economy, and foster appropriate alignment for the most climate-friendly options in the waste management sector, as described in the Waste Hierarchy. In particular the Sustainable Policy on Bioenergy should explicitly exclude Municipal Solid Waste as a source of sustainable energy.

Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe Associate Director: “We should all aim for 100% Renewable Energy, but none of it will do any favors to climate change mitigation if it ends up increasing deforestation, incineration, resource depletion and air pollution. Renewable should synonymous with clean and sustainable energy, and unfortunately right now it’s not the case”.

2. Harmful renewable energy subsidies to extract energy from residual waste should be phased out.

Extracting energy from residual waste is a net contributor to Green House Gas emissions inventories rather than a saver.3 These harmful subsidies are one of the major obstacles to fully implementing a Circular Economy, this being an extremely counterproductive misalignment between two fundamental pillars of current EU policy. This is a fundamental mis-allocation of resources and they should be discontinued without delay.

3. EU Climate and Energy Policy should work towards valuing energy embedded in products and establishing an energy preservation paradigm rather than burning limited natural resources for the extraction of energy.

Energy policies for a low-carbon economy should progressively move away from extracting as much energy as possible from waste and instead increase measures to preserve the embedded energy in products, a far more efficient and sustainable approach to resources.

Organics Waste Hierarchy, Institute for Local Self-Reliance (2014)
Organics Waste Hierarchy, Institute for Local Self-Reliance (2014)

Antigone Dalamaga, Director of Ecological Recycling Society & President of RREUSE Network: “We must focus on implementing the upper levels of the Waste Hierarchy. Prevention, reuse, recycling and composting protects the environment and creates jobs. Incinerating organic waste is not an environmentally sustainable or economically viable option compared to the alternatives of composting and anaerobic digestion.”

In conclusion, the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive and the development of a Sustainable Policy on Bioenergy is an opportunity for Europe to become a leader in clean, sustainable and renewable energy, but it’s critical to ensure that these sources are clean, efficient and science-based.

Flore Berlingen, Director of Zero Waste France: “In France and across Europe, zero waste strategies that prioritize waste prevention, reuse, recycling and composting are gaining momentum. The EU Sustainable Bioenergy Policy should follow the Waste Hierarchy and contribute to this positive trend, making sure that organic waste is used in the most climate-friendly way”.