Slide background
Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Press Release: New zero waste Roubaix case study shows ‘where there is a will there is a way’

For immediate release: Brussels, December 5, 2016

Today Zero Waste Europe[1] has released their latest case study[2]. Demonstrating how the town of Roubaix in Northern France has been able to make significant steps towards a circular economy. The case study highlights the community projects and schemes which have tackled waste at the source, even where the town lacks competences on waste management.

This case study shows that it is vital to involve all stakeholders to change consumption patterns as well as waste generation habits for a successful implementation of a circular economy. The project was so successful that 25% of participating households were able to reduce their waste generation by over 80% and 70% reduced their waste by 50%.

In previous case studies[3] Zero Waste Europe has demonstrated that high recycling rates combined with low generation of waste and low waste management costs are entirely feasible. Zero Waste Europe’s latest case study, highlights how a comprehensive approach has paved the way for zero waste in Roubaix. By integrating families, institutions, businesses, schools and associations Roubaix is creating a new circular system which aims to cut down waste at source and create a new culture of waste.

The case of Roubaix also showcases also the limitations faced by some municipalities in Europe. Roubaix, like other municipalities in France, lacks direct control of waste collection and management policies, meaning that all changes need to be approved by a consortium of municipalities that, in this case, has been reluctant to approve progressive policies. As a result of this the town decided to take an alternative approach reaching out to various stakeholders in Roubaix to minimise waste at its source.

Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Policy Officer said: “Where there is a will there is a way. By challenging households to directly cut down their waste, Roubaix has proven that we can all adjust our lifestyles to more sustainable patterns and make economic savings at the same time”.

Roubaix, which is considered to be the poorest town in France, illustrates that political will and citizen involvement can drive significant change in any situation, even when the competences and resources are lacking.

With the aim of successfully shifting towards a zero waste society and a circular economy, Zero Waste Europe illustrates best practices and supports local transition. Zero Waste Europe’s new campaign ‘Make your city zero waste!’[4] calls for public support in reaching more municipalities in 2017, and sharing zero waste best practices.



  1. Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system.
  2. Download The Story of Roubaix: Case Study 8-
  3. Download previous case studies from Zero Waste Europe –
  4. ‘Make Your City Zero Waste’ campaign.

Zero Waste Christmas – Rethinking consumption

We all want to show our love and appreciation to our loved ones and sometimes presents are a good way to do that. However, can we make sure that our love for something doesn’t imply the destruction of something else?

Some hints that can help to stay sane during the busiest shopping time of the year are:


Dematerialise your gifts;

When preparing your presents try to avoid material stuff. Give a voucher for a massage, or tickets to the theatre, or a dinner to a local restaurant, or a yoga lesson… there are hundreds of non-material presents that can make your loved ones happy without putting an extra burden on the environment.



Your present can be material but it doesn’t need to be 100% new, for it will have implications in the extractions of new materials, transport, energy and water-use. For instance you can refurbish –upcycle- old clothes into something new, or used plastic packaging to do the Christmas decoration, or buy presents in vintage clothes stores and antique shops. Like this you make sure your presents are unique!


Responsible shopping;

Sometimes it is necessary to buy something material and new but watch out because the choices are not neutral. Things that you should especially watch are:

  • santa landfill

    the toxicity of most stuff; there are many products which contain toxics which can cause cancer, infertility, asthma, allergies, etc. For instance, when possible choose plastics that are BPA free, avoid PVC, etc.

  • the source of the materials and choose those from renewable sources; for instance wood is better if certified FSC.
  • the hidden costs; some things might look cheaper than average but they will break before, consume more energy during its use or have a worst post-consumer service. When you buy cheap ask yourself why is this product cheaper than the others, if you don’t find a plausible explanation it might not be that cheap after all!



When it comes to food, Christmas holidays is the time for family meals and we should watch what we buy, what we eat, how we eat as much as what ends up in the bin.

Before going shopping do some planning in order not to over-stock stuff you will not need. If you are not sure about how much food you may require, check out a helpful serving calculator such as LOVE FOOD Hate Waste site

Also, try to buy locally grown and seasonal products which support the local economy, need less packaging and have smaller ecological footprint.  If you see Christmas as a tradition think that European traditions are built on what was available, hence seasonal and local, no need to consume food coming from the other end of the planet.

Remember to serve food in reusable tableware, with cloth napkins and avoid disposable stuff.
If for any reason you need to use single-use items make sure that they are biodegradable so that they can be composted together with food waste.

Talking about food waste, remember that our ancestors generated almost zero of it. Left-overs were reused to prepare filling for croquettes, cannelloni, ravioli, cakes or was given to pets. By the way, domestic pets are a very good manager of food waste and until not too long ago they were fed to pigs and cattle. Have you heard of the Pig Idea?

Only when it can find no other better use consider the food-waste for home composting, community composting or to be separately collected by the municipality. If you don’t have separate collection of food waste in your town, put pressure on your representatives to set it up!


more consumption

It is time to rethink how we spend our Christmas holidays; media commercials will always insist in linking happiness to consumption when experience and scientific evidence proves that this is untrue in most of the cases. After all it’s not rocket science, just reflect on what builds your long term happiness and think how much of that is related to compulsive Christmas shopping… not much, uh?

Christmas holidays is the perfect time of the year to rethink our life-style and plan 2014. Let’s just use the common sense and focus on what makes us happy without having to trash the planet!

Here you have some other practical advice of ways to enjoy happier Christmas:
Zero Waste Guide by Zero Waste Brussels
Pour feter Noël autrement by Fondation Nicolas Hulot
Rethink Christmas – Reduce & Rejoice by Zero Waste Canada
Give a Gift, Not More Stuff by the Story of Stuff Project

Congratulations Alessio Ciacci, Green person fo the year 2012 in Italy

alessio ciacci

The councilor for the environment of the town of Capannori, Alessio Ciacci, has been voted Personaggio Ambiente 2012 in Italy. Capannori, province of Lucca, Italy, was the first town in Europe to declare the goal of Zero Waste in 2008. Since then it has been at the forefront of innovative and radical best practices in waste collection, treatment and prevention. From the City Hall Alessio has been a paramount piece to make this happen.

This represents a victory for the Zero Waste movement in Italy but also in the rest of Europe and the world. The basis of Capannori’s success has been citizen participation and the collaboration between politicians such as Alessio and commited citizens. As Alessio puts it “Politics is only politics if it manages to raise awareness, if it encourages citizen participation, if it manages to increase the protagonism of the communitty … Utopy is not a dream of a few idealists but something to be built with everyday choices and actions, taking responsibility for every little thing”.

For more info see here.

A Zero Waste month in Sweden: 4 people = less than 1kg of waste !

How much waste do you generate in one month? Pål Mårtensson is a Zero Waster from Sweden, where he runs the famous Kretsloppsarken reuse and recycle park, who decided to check by himself how much waste does his household of four generate.


During one month Pål separated, measured and weighed the different waste fractions and the result has been amazing in many ways: “It was very easy, didn´t smell (careful cleaning) and you got a very good view of your waste when you look att it almost every day and that you take care, handle it not as waste but as resources. Out of almost 60 kg “waste”, there were only 0,9 kg I couldn´t handle in a satisfied way (probably goes to burning or bury). I´m very happy that so little is left for the burners, there will be a lack of waste for them if everyone made my example as a habit.” says Pål.

Want to check the detail?

Item dec 5-12-2011 – 3-1-2012

Paper (kg) 4,3 Recycle
Plastic (kg) 5,3 Recycle
Glas (kg/pcs) 7,9 23 Recycle
Pet (pcs) 1,3 22 Deposit
Cans (pcs) 0,8 7 Deposit
Metall (kg/pcs) 1,4 23 Recycle
Food -mostly peels, cores, coffee/tea grounds, bones, flowers…- (kg) 20,5 Compost
Commercials(kg) 3,6 paper Recycle
Newspaper(kg) 2,1 Recycle
Magazines(kg) 0,3 Recycle
Old tea(lit.) 5,9 Drain
Old coffee (lit) 2,1 Drain
Bulb (pcs) 0,1 1 Recycled
Textile (kg) 1,4 Reuse
Envelopes (kg) 0,2 Recycle/Burning
Electronic (kg) 1,2 Recycle
Rest/leftover(kg) 0,9
Burning/Bury(0,9kg rest/leftover) (candles, dishcloth, strings, tampongs,glossy paper)
59,3 kg “waste” total in one month

Therefore for a household of 4 pers and a period of one month including Christmas and New Year Pål’s family has generated 60kg. 15kg per person in average where the part that could not be composted, reused or recycled was only of 1,6%!!

If we look at the Eurostat statistics for Sweden we see that in 2009 Sweden was burning 49% of its waste and landfilling 1%. This means that the average Swede generates around 40 times more waste than Pål or that most of what the Swedish waste management system is burning is actually recyclable. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle…

Of course, the experience mentioned above is not representative (besides being only one example, Pål’s family generates 180kg per person/per year when the Swedish average is 480kg) but it does show the possibilities to live in a more sustainable way and how if all Swedes would follow Pål’s example could afford to close down all incinerators and radically increase recycling and composting.

There are Zero Waste experiences around Europe that confirm that what Pål has done can be repeated and it shows that, after all, it is up to us to make Zero Waste possible!

A Zero Waste family is possible!

Can an average person really create Zero Waste? The challenge was set and during the week 10-17 March 2008, one mother in Bury St Edmunds -UK- gave it a go.

Not being the typical greeny in the beginning she was sceptical about being able to reduce the rubbish to 50% but she managed in only 2 weeks. This motivated her to continue further. After a 8 weeks she only threw out a plaster!

This housewife is Karen Cannard, now an avid blogger in The Rubbish Diet. Karen is a housewife and now freelance writer, based in Bury St Edmunds, where she lives with her husband and two young children.  The blog was only intended to last for just 8 weeks, to chart Karen’s attempts at slimming down her bin for Zero Waste Week in March 2008.  However, having realised the importance of the issue it has since been impossible to shut the woman up and went on to inspire many others.  As a result, Karen’s work was shortlisted in the 2009 Media Guardian Awards for Innovation, in the Independent Media category and was also a finalist in the CIWM awards for Environmental Excellence in the category of Recycling Champion.

Karen now spends her spare time talking rubbish with anyone who will let her and challenges everyone, everywhere to undergo their own Rubbish Diet challenge.  She’s also a regular guest on BBC Radio Suffolk and makes frequent appearances on Heart FM as well as BBC Three Counties Radio and BBC Essex.

Karen is also a motivating speaker and workshop facilitator and in the last 18 months has presented at a range of events including: EERA’s Community Action on Climate Change; Norfolk Waste Partnership’s annual conference; Inspire East’s Community Development gatherings, the Waste Watch waste educators’ conference and more recently the Zero Waste Community event in Norwich.

Ironically, Karen was not particularly green when she started this blog and still insists that despite her sustainable tendencies, she is still an almost average member of the mainstream sector of society that is gradually greening up.

As therapy to her newfound busy life, she’s even busier penning her memoirs, which she hopes one day to turn into a book: “Almost Mrs Average’s Rubbish Diet: the confessions of an accidental eco-blogger“. With her tales of domestic disputes,  impersonations of Mrs Overall, interviewing a celebrity in her bedroom and being interviewed live on a landfill site for national TV, she hopes it will engage folk from far and wide, including those who haven’t even given a second thought to reducing their waste.

Can you do it too? Why not try your own Rubbish Diet and slim your bin? You’ll be amazed at how easy it really is and you could even save some money. If “Almost Mrs Average” can do it, you can too. See here for a plan to reduce your household waste in only 8 weeks.

It is true that most of the times consumers don’t have the choice for sustainable products but this is clearly a growing market and the example of Karen shows that it is possible to live a more sustainable life without much effort. In the following video you can see some ideas of how to turn into a Zero Waste family.