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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Packaging-free refills clean up in Italy.

One model of Zero Waste business is really cleaning up in Italy – refill detergent stores.

The idea is simple, and given its rapid expansion, seemingly recession-proof: customers bring their own empty cleaning product containers to stores and refill them from bulk dispensers. Bottles are also available to buy. It fits with the Zero Waste principle of avoiding the production of waste at source, before considerations of disposal and recycling.


According to Antonio Fico, marketing and communications manager of one such chain, Detersfuso, not only is this an environmentally sound approach to consumption, it also has a positive impact on household budgets at a time when many families are reducing outgoings.

In a 2011 study by the Italian National Consumer Observatory, it was found that a family of 4 could save €205 a year by buying the same cleaning products loose rather than packaged. These savings are attracting custom and boosting expansion, with the franchise-based chain already at 140 stores across central and southern Italy.

Its founder, Carmine Manna, was inspired to take his industrial detergent company in this new direction in 2009, after witnessing the dramatic breakdown in his home city of Naples’ waste collection system. He has taken a firmly Zero Waste approach to his venture:

“It’s essential to reduce waste at the production stage. Today, recycling rates are still very low. If we want to convert our economy, create new areas of employment and contribute to protecting the environment, we have to reduce waste and industrial discards to a minimum and encourage people to choose refill products”.

The bulk chain is proud of its contribution to reducing waste. Since 2011, according to Fico, Detersfuso has diverted 5 million plastic bottles, or 300 tons of plastic from landfill. Given that Naples has signed up to become a ‘Zero Waste City’ by 2020, initiatives such as this play a vital role in helping cities achieve their goal of diverting 100% of waste from landfill and incinerators.

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Goccia Verde

Another Italian chain, Goccia Verde, goes a step further and provides only ecological cleaning and personal care products on tap. They have a total of 17 stores and have even expanded internationally, now with 6 outlets in Spain including 2 in Barcelona.

Some of their stores feature coin-operated automatic dispensers, helping to reduce retail prices even further. They estimate that customers can make savings of between 20 and 60% on the price of cleaning products compared with buying a new bottle every time.

Of course, this does not include the savings to local government of not having to manage plastic waste, or clean up the illegal dumps and plastic pollution that blight the landscape and poison the lives of locals and wildlife.

At a time when many small businesses in Europe are struggling to maintain profits, turning to a Zero Waste distribution model could help them wipe the floor with the competition and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Granel : buy food, not packaging

Following the steps of Effecorta in Italy and Unpackaged in the UK, Granel is the shop to go in Barcelona if you want to buy food, not packaging.

Granel (which means in bulk in Catalan and Castillian) opened the first shop in Vic only a year ago and in the space of only 12 months it has opened a new shop in Barcelona and in Eivissa in the Balearic Islands and there is lots of interests to open many others elsewhere.

In Granel one can buy any kind of cereal, dry fruit, spice, pasta, rice, honey, soap, oil, etc mostly in bulk. The only thing they don’t sell yet is fresh fruits, meat, fish and vegetables which in any case is better to buy directly from the market that one finds only 20m from the shop.

Freedom is also about being able to buy the amount you need

As you can see in the pictures the concept of the shop is very simple: just buy what you need  not what they want you to buy (minimum amount of 5gr). You choose if you want 20gr, 200gr or 2 kg according to what you plan to cook and what you can afford. In a normal market one can only choose between two or three sizes. Contrary to what many think the choice when buying in bulk is unlimited.

The customers of this shop range from environmentaly aware people who want to eat healthy and with little packaging to victims of the economic crisis in Spain with little resources that with this flexible system can buy more variety of things. I.e. for the price of 1kg of rice in a traditional supermarket, in Granel they can buy 250gr of rice, some herbs, a bit of olive oil, some dried tomatos and mushrooms, 250gr of muesli for breakfasts and somedry fruits such as locally sourced almonds…

Coming to Zero Waste the waste generation with this system is really low or zero: firstly by buying only what one needs this system saves lots of food wastage through better planning which is actually the main source of foodwaste (60% of food waste is caused by bad planning when shopping). Secondly the optional packaging offered by Granel is minimal and fully recyclable or compostable and one can bring along its own packaging to do proper Zero Waste shopping.

The vast majority of products are sourced locally and respecting the seasons. There are products such as pepper and other spicies that need to come from abroad because they are not produced in Spain but the majority come from less than 80km around the shop.

When leaving the shop I heard a couple of children who had bought a handful of dry plums –lot healthier than sweets- and with a happy face they exclamated “this is so cheap!”. And they are right! This way it is cheap to eat quality! Normally one is obliged to buy a bag of 125gr or more, which is more expensive and is likely not to be finished. Like this everybody wins; the child gets what he wants at a good price and the local producer sells.

In times of deep economic crisis such as it is the case in Spain Zero Waste shopping makes double sense! One saves money, supports local economy and reduces impact on the planet.

For all this Granel joins our list of Zero Waste companies.


Nappy Ever After, a laundry service for nappies

Nappy Ever After is a company in London that offers a service to wash cotton nappies. This system is perfect for those parents who want to change from single-use to reusable nappies but don’t have the time or the energy to wash them.


The benefits of using washable cloth nappies are well-known;
– for the baby: gains in comfort and freshness, reduces the temperature in the genital area and the skin-problems and leave the use of nappies before than with single-use.
– for the parents; don’t need to go nappy-shopping and it can mean savings in comparison to single-use nappies,
– for the environment and the common good: every baby generates yearly more than half a ton of waste in single-use nappies –874kg in the UK-. It takes 500 years for a single-use nappy to degrade. If you calculate the nr of new-borns in your country times 1000-1500 kgs of waste each you will see how much can the local auhtorities save in landfill or incineration costs.


Nappies in Nursery

The functioning of the system is easy; nappies are delivered and picked up once a week to individual customers and nurseries. The customers decide how many nappies they want to receive –normally around 50 per week -. All the system is run at small-scale and local level, generating local jobs and sustainability.


Something observed in nurseries where this has been applied –also in individual cases- is that with reusable nappies the children feel when they are wet and they start to control themselves a lot before than others. So it has an important education component for the babies.
This laundry service for nappies is not unique, this system is wide-spread in the US and Australia with several succesful examples and there are similar experiences in The Netherlands or Italy.
Other laundry services in the UK:

David Andersen Copenhagen; designing waste out of fashion

Waste is a human invention and as such it is up to us to design it out of the system. David Andersen is a good example of how zero waste can be built into a production process and at the same time bring added value to the project.

The Zero Waste philosophy has many applications in the production process and fashion is one of them. Zero Waste & clothes design can be approached from the quality point of view; i.e. better quality + good design = longer lasting clothes which should reduce the shopping frequency and hence reduce also the waste associated clothes production. Good quality fabrics also allow for refurbishment and reuse of clothes to give a second life to garments.


Another way to approach Zero Waste & clothes is from the point of view of the design. Most clothes-production processes involve lots of cutting the by-product of it being lots of unused fabric that go to waste. These fabric-rests can and should be reduced to zero and this can be done with good design.


David Andersen Design, a successful Copenhagen design label since 2007, has decided to go follow the Zero Waste path. As David Andersen puts it ’’Sustainability is an integrated part of how we work at David Andersen, and has been it for a long time. It is a simply a natural thing for us, to be concerned of the origin, production and maintenance of clothes. It should be a common and decent behavior, and not something new and fashionable.’’


Implementing Zero Waste to cloth design means creating a strong garment whilst efficiently utilising the 100% of the fabric used in production. Indeed, the idea is to design in a way that enables to use every single square millimeter of the fabric. It is the virtue of the designer, to create simple designs, so even the thinnest part of the fabric, will be integrated in the final design, thus eliminating waste.


’’It is all about minimizing waste already in the design and production phase, and about applying the approach for the next design process. In the end, the final result will signal both a design and social point of view’’ says David Andersen about the design experiment, which will be an integrated part of the designer’s SS 13 collection. The collection will go under the name of zero-waste by David Andersen.


With this project and building on smart designs, which are based on the sustainable principles from the beginning, David Andersen aims at creating a new trend within fashion. Unlike the fashion industry, which operates in secrecy, the zero-waste project is open for anyone, who is interested in following and commenting on the project. To follow the project just follow the blog:


The Renewable Energy House in Brussels goes Zero Waste!

The Renewable Energy House (REH) headquarters 20 associations working in Brussels to promote renewable energies in front of the European Union. It currently houses 100 people and it preaches by example running the whole house completely on renewable energies. Now it also decided to be the first office building in Europe to go Zero Waste!


The REH knows better than anyone else that waste is, before anything else, a waste of energy.

Recycling vs producing anew from raw materials saves 95% of the energy for aluminium, 70% for paper & cardboard and 30% for glass. Going Zero Waste makes sense from the energetic point of view; the energy –and money!- savings will add to those already implemented in this office building by going renewable. Indeed, it is unlikely that in the short term renewable energies alone will be capable to solve the problems of energy supply in a world with soaring fuel prices, therefore zero waste complements perfectly the renewable energy sector for it saves vast amounts of energy  that otherwise would be required in the extraction, production, transport and disposal process.

       Following a study run by Greenovate! and Novociclo[1] and after auditing waste arisings in the building, a serie of measures were proposed to increase waste diversion –waste that is not sent to disposal to the Brussels inncinerator- to 90%. Among the measures to be applied in the next 3 years will be:

  • Replacement of the plastic bottles with glass-jars,
  • Sorting the organic waste and composting it in the courtyard,
  • Making sure that caterers serve food with reusable non-single use packaging and avoid buying single-use plates, cups or cutlery,
  • Maximise paper use –print both sides- and promote not crushing paper (1kg of crushed paper occupies 10-100 times more space than flattened paper),
  • Replace the 14 km/year of paper towels currently used in bathrooms with an alternative,
  • Reorganising the waste collection points,
  • etc

 As a result of this combination of measures the REH should be reducing the amount of residual waste to less than 10% by 2015 whilst reducing the total amount of waste generated and saving money and energy.

 On Tuesday 24th of April, after the presentation of the study and after having agreed on the proposals and targets for 2015 the terms of commitment were signed by the President of the REH, Jan Geiss, the Secretary General of the REH, Kim Vanguers, the director of Greenovate!, Astrid Severin, the President of Novociclo, Rodrigo Sabatini and the coordinator of Zero Waste Europe, Joan Marc Simon.


The application of the Zero Waste terms of commitment are now going to be monitored on a yearly basis to make sure that the targets are met and REH can be a certified Zero Waste building by 2015.


 The Press Release from REH:


The Renewable Energy House (REH) commits to becoming the first Zero Waste Office Building in Europe.


Brussels 24th April 2012. Launch REH Zero Waste Commitment in the REH, Brussels.


Today, Zero Waste Europe in conjunction with Greenovate! and Novociclo Ambiental SA and the management structure of the Renewable Energy House, REH asbl, met at the Renewable Energy House in Brussels to sign a joint commitment to Zero Waste by 2015. The REH asbl officially stated its commitment to meeting the basic principles of a Zero Waste company, aiming at avoiding, reducing, reusing and recycling waste.


“We’re looking forward to best using this innovative framework and cooperation with specialized actors for making the REH a best-practice example of a Zero Waste Office Building in Europe” said Jan Geiss, REH President and Secretary General of the European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources.


Greenovate! sprl in collaboration with Novociclo S/A, a Brazilian company specialised in Zero Waste Management, carried out an analysis of the waste generation and disposal at the Renewable Energy House. Zero Waste targets for 2015 as well as an Action Plan to achieve them were based on this analysis.[2]


“I’m eager to implement the first actions towards Zero Waste Management. This commitment marks a new important step for the Renewable Energy House!” said Kim Vanguers, REH Secretary General.


By using 100% Renewable Energy Sources for heating, cooling and electricity, the Renewable Energy House has rapidly become a shining and undeniable example of integration of Energy Efficiency measures and Renewable Energy Technologies in a refurbished building since its inauguration by the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) in 2006.


To achieve the Zero Waste targets by 2015, the REH will integrate the Zero Waste principles in its management practices while raising the awareness of the 100 staff employed by the 20 associations who, interlinking under the REH roof, are the very core of the Renewable Energy House.



[1] To see the PWP presentation of the study click here.

[2] Greenovate! Climate Solutions, Belgium and Novociclo, Brazil, “Development of a Zero Waste Management Plan for the Renewable Energy House Brussels, Analysis and recommendation”, Brussels, March 2012.


Gaiakraft: Beyond paper recycling?

Few years ago paper and cardboard recycling was regarded as a big step in closing the loop of materials, yet what back then was a big improvement now it has the potential of going further. Paper recycling is a no-brainer now but there are new alternatives that are a lot more enviromentally friendly.


Followig the idea that the best waste is the waste that doesn’t exist; the best paper waste is the paper that is not produced in the first place. I.e. the inmaterialisation of the use. The concept of paperless office is a widespread reality, more and more people read the news and books on electronic platforms which are reducing the amount of newspapers, more and more cardboard packaging is being reduced… the use of paper supports can be reduced dramatically. However, it is still hard to imagine a world without paper.


The raw resource of wood pulp are trees. Both deforestation and dedicated tree plantations have shown its negative impacts not only on the environment but also on local economies. To make 1 ton of paper you need 20 trees, 60000 liters of water and a good amount of chemicals. Paper recycling is great because it reduces tree-logging yet it is a technology that is intensive in water and bleach use and hence it generates water waste and carbon emissions.


Therefore it would be necessary to work out a system that minimises water and chemicals use and emissions. And this is what the company Gaiakraft has done.


Gaiakraft has developped a system that should leave trees alone for a while and save good deal of water, emissions and chemicals. GaiaKraft bags and packaging is made from paper that comes from mineral powder (calcium carbonate) meaning it is tree-free! This tree-free paper differs from traditional paper in that it is made from a high percentage of mineral powder and a small percentage of non-toxic resin. What’s more is that the process used to make the paper uses no water or bleach like traditional wood pulp paper.


GaiaKraft is water-resistant and being a tree-free paper and essentially fibreless, it does not absorb ink and therefore prints with 20-30% less ink as compared to traditional wood-pulp paper.
GaiaKraft is degradable and due to its high mineral content safely degrades when left out in nature over a period of 6 to 9 months.


Less deforestation, no water or bleach use, no toxins released, degradable, recyclable, less emissions, water resistant, uses less ink… Gaiakraft paper looks like a step forward for the future of our forests and rivers but also for the implementation of Zero Waste strategies!

Business & Zero Waste

Zero Waste is one of the pillars of sustainability. It is impossible to be sustainable as long as what we discard cannot be the resource of another process without endangering health or the environment. This is why Zero Waste concept is good for both people –less pollution- and the business sector –less innefficiency and costs-.
The book “New Standards for Long Term Business Survival” from J. Scott explains why waste doesn’t make any sense from a business perspective. Using several examples and reviewing the recent history of the relation between companies and waste, Scott explains how the business world has changed and is continuing to change in the direction of Zero Waste.


It explains the great work of Walter Stahel regarding the “closed-loop economy” and the two ways to achieve it; either by reusing, repairing or remanufacturing products and their materials, which facilitates job creation and decreases virgin material usage (by re-using molecules) or by optimizing the profitability of products by converting them into a service so as to keep the product’s materials in the hands of the manufacturer in order to lower raw material and production costs. Safechem, Michelin or Interface are succesful example of this second option of selling a service instead of a commodity (selling square meters of cleaning, the distance a tire can travel or the meters of carpet-covered floors).

This book and other from J.Scott can be downloaded for free from our ZW library.

From this book we extract 6 Key Teaching and Learning Points
1- Waste elimination and resource maximization are two sides of the same coin. One cannot occur without the other.
2- Waste elimination is an on-going process. There is no finish line.
3- Waste creation does not equate with freedom nor is it a basic human right: the world is interconnected and has limited resources –and waste impedes the well-being and security of others.
4- Waste is a financial burden to businesses, customers, and local, national and international communities.
5- Spending money on lawyers and lobbyists to fight against higher efficiency standards or for the right to create waste is counterproductive, self-defeating, costly and pointless.
6- Taxing waste has the capacity to serve two purposes: (1) the money collected can fund and support infrastructure building, and, (2) businesses and industries would be encouraged to be less wasteful.

Puma – towards Zero Waste?

The shoe producer Puma in cooperation with the FuseProject has set itself in the path to minimise waste and is today a reference for other companies on greening production. As Puma says in a good understanding of waste hierarchy; they make better use of boxes by not using them.

After 21 months of studying diferent options to reduce the environmental impact, minimise the use of boxes, diminish shipping costs and hence reduce waste, and after 2000 ideas and 40 prototypes Puma concluded that the best solution was not to use a box and instead use a 100% cornstarch fully biodegradable bag.

The “clever bag solution” represents a 65% reduction in the use of cardboard which means saving 8500 tones of paper,20.000 milion megajoules of electricity, 1 milion liters of fuel, oil and 500.000 liters of diesel, 1 milion liters of water and reducing CO2 emissions in 10.000 tones.

On the top of that Puma has phased-out always dangerous PVC from its shoe soles and is producing smaller handtags which also reduces paper use.

The reduction of waste in Puma has brought not only less environmental impact. It has also reduced the costs, raised the green credentials of the company which will make it more appealing to new costumers. A good example of how Zero Waste is not only possible but also highly recommendable corporate strategy!

If You Care about Zero Waste…

Common kitchen and household products such as aluminium foil, baking paper, coffe filters or sandwich bags are the visible side of how sustainable and toxic-free our everyday life is.

A Zero Waste approach to these kind of products is based on prevention: if products are toxic-free and biodegradable they will not become waste but compost, if products are made from recycled materials they will save many materials & emissions, etc…

“If You Care” is a swedish brand of environmentally friendly kitchen and household products. Starting in 1990 “If You Care” launched unbleached coffee filters. Parchment Baking Paper and Baking Cups soon followed. All of the paper products were unbleached and totally chlorine-free -since no chlorine is used for bleaching, no chlorine is dumped into our lakes, rivers and streams-. In 2004, the very first Aluminum Foil made from 100% recycled aluminum was launched. This product featured a 95% energy savings compared to conventional aluminum foil. Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil for grilling and barbecuing, also from 100% recycled aluminum, was introduced in 2007. That same year, waxed paper, from unbleached paper coated with soybean wax was launched. In 2009, two new products were launched – 100% carbon neutral fire starters, made from FSC certified wood and vegetable oil, and sandwich and snack bags made from unbleached greaseproof paper. Many new products in a wide variety of categories are being planned and developed in the coming years.

“If You Care” kitchen and household products are carefully and deliberately crafted to have the least environmental impact and the lightest carbon footprint possible, while at the same time, delivering to the consumer, the highest quality and most effective results.

Following the Zero Waste philosophy “If You Care” products are produced with a view to reducing the amount of waste in our waste streams. The packaging of every product is made from unbleached and whenever possible, recycled cardboard or paper which should be recycled again. The coffee filters, parchment paper, baking cups, waxed paper and sandwich bags are 100% biodegradable and should be composted. The aluminum foil is made from recycled aluminum and can be recycled again.

“If You Care” is yet another example of how business and Zero Waste go hand in hand. Less toxics in the environment and less waste to be disposed of means less harm and expenditure for the communities. example of Zero Waste company

Composting -specially home-composting- is one of the best waste prevention and recycling activities. The Barcelona based company has managed to create a Zero Waste business making composting even more sustainable: by using recycled materials to build the composters.

One of the main principles of a zero waste company is that raw materials should be obtained from recycled materials and not from new extraction and has built its business model on this premise.

The combox are made entirely from recycled and recyclable plastics from post-consumer waste. The result is a 100% recycled, recycling and recyclable product.

An average European citizen generates around 1,5kg of waste per day and 40% of it is organics. Composting we can reduce the weight and volume of the organic waste by 70%. This means that if in Europe biowaste would be separately collected and composted the amount of waste to be sent to landfill and incineration could be considerably reduced. Unfortunately, the European Union continues to oppose these biowaste recycling targets but nothing stops any responsible EU citizen to start doing home-composting. offers the tools to get soil improver for free, reduce the waste generation and help fight climate change.

We beat the mountain!

Turning the waste into the raw material for a new product is one of the characteristics of the economy of the future. Less available and more expensive resources will inevitably mean that companies have to close the loop. “We beat the mountain” is one of these social enterprises that see resources where others see trash.

“We Beat The Mountain” is a Dutch organisation with the aim of creating, developing and producing cool functional products made from recycled trash.

The idea to create “We Beat The Mountain” was born as a reaction to the built obsolescence of the products that flood our economy.

In 2009 Han Hendriks, initiator and founder of the project, bought a Samsonite suitcase and after only one use, it broke… For the third time in his life! It was just another one in a row of many broken Samsonites, all of them made of “wrong plastic”. Because of his own reaction of frustration, anger and pure astonishment Han came up with the idea to develop a 100% cradle to cradle suitcase, to become a social entrepreneur and to build a serious company to beat the trash mountain.

“I believe that you need to do something useful with your talents by combining entrepreneurial and social goals. That’s what we’re doing with We Beat The Mountain.”  says Han.

“We Beat The Mountain” launched its first products in the end of 2010: laptop, iPad, smart phone covers (made out of recycled PET) & construction trailer (old sea container + interior designed with recycled materials). For 2011 they are planning to launch a flex baby bag and flex workers trolley also made of recycled materials.

The sales of “We beat the mountain” have been going up in these times of economic crisis and the goals for next years is to recycle 10.000 tonnes in 2011, 25.000 tonnes in 2012 and 50.000 tonnes for 2013.

Beyond the smart design of the products, “We beat the mountain” tries to use one material for every piece of their product so that it is easier to recycle it at the end of its life. Because of this it encourages its customers to return their products so that they can recycle them without losing quality of materials.

For more information see their cool video: and

Effecorta – Sustainable, Zero Waste shopping is possible!

Do you think that eating sustainable food has become a fulltime expensive job? This might be true in many places in Europe but there are more and more shops that show the way towards sustainability. Effecorta, in the ZeroWaste-pioneer town of Capannori in Italy, is a very good example of how sustainable, zero waste shopping is not only necessary but is also possible!

In the shop Effecorta 80% of the products come from 70km around the Capannori municipality (aiming to get to 95%) and many of them are organic.

But this is just the top of the iceberg; the shop adheres to the principle of Zero Waste and it doesn’t use any plastic bag or any non-reusable package. This is not only true for the tomatoes but also for soap, milk products, cosmetic creams, beer, wines, beans, rice, spices, salt, sugar… you name it! Everything they sell is in refillable, re-usable or/and biodegradable packaging.

This system:

– allows every buyer to buy according to its needs which minimises the waste eventually produced by normal packaged stuff and responsible for lots of food to be wasted (8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year),

– saves us from having to check the source and composition of the products because you know they are all local and in most of the cases organic (time saving),

– reduces the carbon food-print of the products because they don’t have to be transported long distances (less CO2 emissions),

– contributes to minimise the waste generation at home (no waste packaging and a lot less food wasted= less cost for the citizen and the municipality),

– because you buy the amount you need and not what is in predefined packaging in the end you end up spending (and buying) less than in a normal supermarket, even if you buy bio! An italian study shows how buying bulk can reduce the food bill in 64€ per month/family that is 775eur per year,

– well, leaving aside everything above: food tastes better and is more nutritive which at the end is what we all want!

This initiative was started by 6 idealists from Tuscany in August 2009 and it has already achieved economic stability and from all the products, the sales of the organic products are increasing by a 20%.

A lot of people questioned in the beginning the quality of natural biological refillable soaps and others. For this reason in the beginning the entrepreneurs gave to normal people (not the already convinced greeny) different soaps to try and in the end the customers decided to stay with the locally produced biological soap with the refillable packaging for pure practical and quality reasons.

It is important to mention that the customers of this shop are all kinds of normal people from Capannori and surroundings, a good example of how Zero Waste fits and improves everyday life. This has been recognised with the award of Tuscany Eco-efficiency.

Effecorta proves how zero waste and sustainability can get into people’s lifes whilst feeding them better, creating local jobs, reducing carbon food-print of products and phasing-out waste!

Nissan Leaf & Zero Waste

The new Nissan Leaf is an electric car that once it is produced it doesn’t generate new CO2 emissions –other than those associated to generating the electricity-.

The Nissan Green Program focuses on reducing waste at every stage of a car’s life, from development to disposal. Hence, the car is partly made from materials recycled from old interior parts, bumpers and plastic bottles. Nissan is using materials taken from vehicles that have reached the end of their life and reducing the use of non-renewable resources and substances that will end up as waste.

Insulation layers in the floor and skin fabric of headlining are made with fibres from recycled plastic, the fabric for the seats and armrests used in the Leaf is made from recycled plastic bottles, bumpers are made from used or damaged recycled bumpers, etc… At the end of life of the Nissan Leaf a new life starts with recycling: 99% of the car and 100% of the lithium car can be recovered. Since the battery maintains 80% of its capacity after 5 years of use it can be given a second life, otherwise it can be dismantled and its materials recovered.

Nissan Leaf is a good example of how to design waste out of the system: the environmentally damaging substances are reduced, a new chemical-free system to remove paint from the bumpers is used, the lithium-ion battery can get a second life as energy storage solutions thanks to a “Reuse, resell, refabricate and recycle” venture from the Sumitomo group, the aluminium wheels from end-of-life vehicles are recycled to create high grade suspension parts, etc…

In those situations where walking, cycling or public transport are not an option Nissan Leaf offers a Zero Waste solution to get from A to B.

LAST MINUTE MARKET – a great tool of waste prevention

In the last post we dealt with the worrying amounts of food waste in Europe. In this post we want to present an european fantastic and succesful initiative to reduce the food waste; the Last Minute Market.

Last Minute Market (LMM) links shops and producers (processing industries, food shops, retail stores and the like) who have unsold food which would otherwise be discarded with people and charities who need food.
Prof. Andrea Segrè started with this project in 1998. The University of Bologna developped SMM as a spin-off and it is now active in more than 40 Italian towns and has new projects starting in other places in the world.

LMM operates in the areas of unsold but edible food, unharvested vegetables, non-conform seeds, un-used catering products, unsold books and now also unused pharmaceuticals.

LMM eliminates waste by helping companies manage surplus (food and other items) and taking them out of the disposal route. Public institutions and communities also benefit from the reduction in the flow of waste to landfill and incineration which saves them money in taxes, health and environmental damage and less dependency on further foreign food imports. Finally it also improves food availability for the sectors of society that need it, and third sector (charity) destinataries who reduce operating costs and release resources for other projects.

LMM brings about environmental, economic and social benefits. According to founder Prof. Segrè if LMM Food were to be adopted nationwide in Italy by supermarkets, small shops and cash and carry shops, €928,157,600 would be recuperated in products. Furthermore, these products could provide 3 meals a day to 636,000 people – in total 580,402,025 meals a year. Also by not sending these products to the landfill, 291,393 tonnes of CO2 emissions could be spared.

In April 2010 LMM launched “ancora utili”, a program to recuperate unexpired prescription drugs donated by single users, doctors or hospitals. The pilot project in Ferrara has involved 11 pharmacies is projected to collect drugs for a market value of 15,000 euros per year.

In October 2010 LMM was presen

ted in the European Parliament and the Agriculture Committee approved this resolution to reduce 50% of the amount of food waste throughout the food chain.

LMM is a win-win project and another piece of a Zero Waste strategy. The prevention of waste helps optimise resource use with benefits for the different stakeholders as well as for the environment.

For further information (in italian) see

Zero Waste – when recycling is not enough

Recycling an aluminium can requires 5% of the energy & material flow than what is necessary to produce a can from virgin materials. Recycling is great! It keeps materials in use, reducing the demand for extracting and producing new materials and delaying the time before the materials become waste. Therefore it is and should be encouraged and supported… but unfortunately it is far from enough to achieve sustainability.
Sustainability is about using current resources in a way that we can pass them on to the future generations; it is about preserving the ecological capital.

According to Eurostat 75% of Europeans think that separating the waste at home is their biggest contribution to fight climate change . It is true that with source separation it is possible to increase recycling rates. However, the real recycling –turning a bottle into a new bottle-happens very rarely. In most cases the materials are down-cycled because the new material has lost purity in comparison with the old product. Plus, recycling is often quite a dirty process.

More recycling doesn’t always mean more sustainability or less emissions. In Europe we see a certain confusion among policy makers and even among the –sometimes- self-appointed green cities or communities because they recycle 50 or 60% of their waste. This is missleading. For instance, according to Eurostat Denmark recycles 41% whilst Czech Republic recycled 3% of their municipal waste. At first sight one would think that Denmark is a lot more sustainable than the Czech Republic because they recycle more. However, if we look at the absolute numbers of waste we realise that with their high recycling rates Denmark still has a residual waste fraction that amounted to 472kg/capita/year (59% of the 801kg of total anual waste that they generate) whilst Czech Republic generated only 285kg/capita/year (97% of 294kg of total waste per capita). This means that in terms of material and energy flows the Czech Republic is more sustainable than Denmark. Therefore, sustainability is not a matter of –only- recycling more but rather of generating less waste.

Europe has to move from Recycling to Sustainability

Europe has to become a Sustainable Society rather than a Recycling Society, the latter is part of the former but as far as waste is concerned, waste reduction combined with increase in material productivity are of even more importance than recycling.

Zero waste is not only about closing the loop but also about making the loop smaller. The European Union aims to decouple waste generation from economic growth but this won’t be enough. It is necessary to reduce resource consumption regardless of the economic growth. Learn to do more with less. Indeed, if the world population continues to increase, with constant consumption patterns, at a higher rate than the rate we reduce waste the unsustainability is growing and not decreasing.

Recycling is mostly good and desirable but it can’t be the reason for complacency. It is precisely for these reasons that the new approaches to resource productivity go beyond recycling to approach sustainability taking into account more indicators:
The leading region for recycling in Europe, Flanders, has adopted a Sustainable Material Management (SMM) strategy which looks at the whole material chain in order to better phase out waste by incorporating material design and productivity approach as part of waste prevention.
Simultaneously, the Environmental Directorate of the OECD is developing guidelines for SMM that are likely to be adopted by many OECD countries in order to effectively tackle the sustainability of the materials.
– In the Netherlands there has been the Chain Approach initiative in which the authorities partner with companies in order to reduce the waste at the end of the process.

Beyond recycling!

Landfill and incineration, together with other disposal options have no place in a sustainable Zero Waste society. Recycling is here to stay but its limitations start to show themselves in those places where recycling rates are above 50%; they have realised that recycling alone can’t do the work. They need to work in waste prevention, minimisation, raise awareness, product design, proper treatment, extended producer responsibility, etc in order to reduce its material and energy consumption without reducing its living standards.

The approach might be new but what we are doing in fact is go back to some traditional usages; designing things to last (from fashion as well as from product point of view), easy to be repaired or refurbished, with non-toxic materials, easy to dismantle or tear apart, traceable, recyclable, etc… Some companies have built a success out of these traditional principles. The English brand Vitsoe has been selling solid, long-lasting and design furniture since decades and has proven that is possible to live better with less that lasts longer. One of the mottos of Vitsoe is “we see recycling as a defeat”. Now it looks like, little by little, with the materials being more scarce and difficult to recover governments and organisations are also starting to look beyond recycling.

Zero Waste is a strategy aiming at doing more with less by improving the resource productivity in order to phase out the clearest symbol of inefficiency: waste!

Example of a Zero Waste company – Interface

Ray Anderson, CEO of the biggest carpet producing company in the world Interface, explains how shifiting a billion-dollar petroleum-based industry into sustainability is not only possible but it is economically and morally rewarding.  Since the adoption of its zero-impact goals in 1995 the firm’s use of fossil fuels and water, its greenhouse emissions and waste generation has fallen dramatically, while sales have increased by 2/3 and profits have doubled. Interface has diverted 74000tons of used carpets from landfills, while 1/4 of its materials are renewable and recycled.

The 400$ million Interface saved in costs avoided through the pursuit of Zero Waste has paid for all the costs of transforming its practices and facilities.

As he says in this video the Interface example: “dispels de myth of the false choice between the enfironment and the economy… if we, a petro-intensive company, can do it, anybody can. And if anybody can, it follows that everybody can”.