Cities & CommunitiesUncategorized

Meet the Mission Zero Academy: an accelerator of ambitious zero waste transitions at the local level


16 Mar 2021

Written by

Esra Tat


At Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), we advocate for sustainable systems and the redesign of our relationship with resources, to accelerate a just transition towards zero waste for the benefit of people and the planet. 

Since our inception, as the European network of communities, local leaders, experts, and change agents, we have developed and pioneered initiatives in three areas of expertise; 

  • Advocacy work at the European level;
  • Movement building and coordination;
  • Implementation of zero waste strategies at the local level. 

ZWE’s very existence is deeply rooted in this third implementation and mainstreaming work of zero waste practices at the national, regional, and local level. 

Today, and after months of behind the scene preparation, we are thrilled to introduce our new effort to accelerate even further these local level zero waste transitions; MiZA, the Mission Zero Academy. 

Our foundational effort to turn the vision of circular economy into a reality for Europe

Back in 2007, Capannori (Italy) was the first European town to declare that it would pursue the zero waste goal. This pioneering initiative has been then followed by hundreds of other communities, towns and cities across Europe and beyond. 

As ZWE, over the years, we aimed at creating the right framework and capacity building efforts to pollinate the best practices, amplify the work done by zero waste local groups and NGOs and ensure consistency in what can be considered a “zero waste” model. This is the cornerstone of our flagship Zero Waste Cities programme jointly carried out with the ZWE network members, which led to a flourish of zero waste cities initiatives across the continent (see the recently published State of Zero Waste Municipalities Report which traces the success stories of community-centred zero waste models throughout Europe)

Our primary focus has been to support our network of national and local zero waste groups and NGOs to engage with local decision-makers and monitor the ambitious implementation of zero waste initiatives. 

Over the years, it has become clear that accelerating this transition will require an additional effort of mainstreaming “how-tos”, especially in training local stakeholders themselves, be it municipalities or SMEs. In parallel, we also witnessed that the increasing use of the zero waste term has also resulted in its definition and approach being diluted and weakened. Today, it is not unusual to discover municipalities or corporations claiming that they or their business are zero waste, without understanding the holistic, community-led approach that this requires. 

The Mission Zero Academy (MiZA) was thought and created to fill in these gaps. 

MiZA, a knowledge and capacity building hub to mainstream ambitious zero waste models 

In cities and regions across Europe, communities, civil society leaders, visionary policy-makers, and innovative entrepreneurs are showing that zero waste is a desirable strategy as a systemic approach for resource efficiency, job creation, a healthy environment, clean production, and sustainable consumption. But how can we accelerate this transition even further?

In addition to creating the right policy framework and supporting civil society groups, we know that generalising zero waste practices at the local level requires a continuous effort to phase out waste by creating and implementing systems that do not generate waste in the first place.  While municipalities and local authorities can transition their system from residual waste management to circular resource management up to a certain point, they also need local businesses to become solution providers to fully implement the zero waste ambition. 

Established as a separate entity from ZWE, MiZA will serve primarily municipalities and SMEs to access know-how to design and implement future-proof zero waste and circular strategies. 

MiZA has a two-fold ambition: providing the appropriate platform to mainstream the knowledge about zero waste, circular practices and techniques to implement them – at the national, regional, and local level; and offering a robust framework to assess and benchmark Europe’s best zero waste municipalities and businesses. 

Training  and capacity building

MiZA will provide practical tools, resources, online (and hopefully soon offline) learning opportunities and expert advice as a one-stop-shop to ensure the transition towards zero waste strategies and practices is effective and widespread. The set of services provided by MiZA will be released over the coming months.

While MiZA will work closely with experts from the zero waste movement, it also intends to train a wider range of waste professionals to deliver services, especially in the audit phase of the Zero Waste Cities Certification.

Monitoring and raising the bar 

From its launch, one of the key services of MiZA will be the Zero Waste Cities Certification which is based on over 10 years of experiences from the ZWE network. It turns the successful mentoring of zero waste municipalities into an even more robust and formal mechanism to guide European municipalities towards zero waste. (Learn more about the Zero Waste Cities Certification).

In parallel, MiZA is developing a similar label for small and medium sized businesses, events, and organisations that are implementing a zero waste approach within their operations and work.

The Certification/Label and the related audit mechanisms are designed to ensure consistency behind what can be considered a zero waste and circular model at the local level – and protect the real zero waste approaches from bogus claims – but, above all, in order to provide a blueprint or a check-list to help guide organisations and municipalities on their journey to zero waste. The comparability of models and data is also designed to allow benchmarking and continuous improvement – as we say in the zero waste movement, “always happy, never satisfied”

As ZWE’s sister organisation, MiZA will provide much needed hands-on knowledge and monitoring framework to local decision makers and businesses, and ensure that no resource will become waste

We invite you to join us in sharing the great news about the Academy launch. Make sure to check Mission Zero Academy for more information in the coming days.