Climate, Energy & Air Pollution

We promote zero waste as a solution to air pollution and climate change and work to stop harmful EU funding for false solutions’ to climate change.


Zero waste solutions are one of the fastest and most efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, with existing practices and technologies that are available and could be implemented today.

Through redesigning our patterns of production and consumption and implementing progressive waste prevention, reuse and recycling policies zero waste practices manage to preserve materials and energy in the system instead of wasting them and releasing, often toxic, emissions into the atmosphere.

However, despite the proven success of zero waste as a solution for climate change, current trends in climate finance (including renewable energy subsidies and international climate and development aid finance) are channelling vast sums of money to waste-to-energy and other types of waste incineration plants such as cement kilns and landfills, instead of focusing on preventing, reusing and recycling waste.

Waste burning has a huge impact on climate change and air pollution. Despite being promoted as an alternative to fossil fuels, the use of waste as fuel is a false solution to climate change and it is amongst the most polluting, expensive, and inefficient forms of energy production available today.

Zero waste Europe works for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution through zero waste solutions and supports local impacted communities to raise their voices against waste-burning sources of contamination, providing and advocacy platform to address relevant policy at the EU and international level and minimising any financial support towards such polluting activities.

Want to know more about our work on Climate, Energy and Air Pollution?

Here are a few related posts...

Library for Climate, Energy and Air Pollution

Library for Climate, Energy & Air Pollution

Recycled content in plastics – the mass balance approach

If the label on the bottle in your hand said it was made from recycled plastic, would you believe it? Depending on the method behind the claim, the bottle might contain little to no recycled content at all.

This booklet presents infographic renditions of the recommendations from the “Determining recycled content with the ‘mass balance approach’ – 10 recommendations for development of methods and standards” position paper, originally published on January 2021.


Available in English

The benefits of including municipal waste incinerators in the Emissions Trading System

To ensure the EU is having a neutral impact on climate change by 2050, the European Commission is currently reviewing all relevant EU policies, including the Emissions Trading System (ETS), and proposing extending the ETS to new sectors of the economy. This revision is a crucial opportunity to subject this carbon-intensive municipal waste incineration industry to the “polluter pays” principle by pricing in the carbon cost of burning waste to progressively reduce emissions from the sector.


Available in English

Joint Letter to the European Commission: Avoid the ‘mass balance approach’ to block ambitions for increased recycled content in plastics

 The undersigned organisations representing European NGOs and recycling industries are writing today to urge the European Commission to establish a transparent and ambitious ‘chain of custody’ method for determining recycled content in plastic products.


Available in English

Determining recycled content with the ‘mass balance approach’ – 10 recommendations for development of methods and standards

If the label on the bottle in your hand said it was made from recycled plastic, would you believe it? Depending on the method behind the claim, the bottle might contain little to no recycled content at all.
This position paper highlights recommendations to ensure that the methodologies for determining recycled content are developed in a manner which contributes to a circular economy.


Available in English

Call for the new EU Recovery and Resilience Funds to finance the transition to an economy that prevents products from becoming waste

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, call on the EU institutions and member states to explicitly dedicate the NextGenerationEU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) to financing the transition towards a circular, carbon neutral, zero pollution economy, to which the EU already committed, with a clear emphasis on waste prevention and reuse.

Available in English

Sustainable Finance for a Zero Waste Circular Economy

Zero Waste Europe released today a report highlighting the importance of a Zero Waste Circular Economy in the post-COVID-19 recovery. The “Sustainable Finance for a Zero Waste Circular Economy (ZWCE)” report addresses the current lack of clarity around the concept of ZWCE. It provides clear criteria on the activities that need to be included and prioritised under the umbrella of the Sustainable Finanace by looking at the social, economic, climate, and environmental benefits. Check out our infographic here.

Available in English

Infographic: Sustainable Finance for a Zero Waste Circular Economy

What is a Zero Waste Circular Economy (ZWCE)? And how it could be beneficial for our society, the environment and climate, the economy and the post-COVID-19 recovery? Discover it in our infographic and read the full report here.

Available in English

Landfill emission reductions only tell half the story as GHG emissions from Waste-to-Energy incineration double

Greenhouse gas emissions from Waste-to-Energy are currently hidden in the energy sector and therefore overlooked in waste sector accounting, giving us the false impression that WTE is an effective low-carbon waste solution. Our latest briefing shows that the trends across Europe are telling a different story.

Available in English

Why co-incineration of waste is not Taxonomy-compliant and should be excluded

Zero Waste Europe calls for the exclusion of burning waste in cement plants in line with the Technical Expert Group (TEG) recommendation, as such practice proved to negatively impact public health and the environment due to the polluting nature of the associated emissions while undermining the circular economy.

Available in English

7 Steps to Effectively Legislate Chemical Recycling

Our latest joint statement with the Rethink Plastic alliance, and notably ECOS, EEB and HCWH outlines key steps for effective legislation of chemical recycling in the EU.


Available in English

Making GHG accounting work for climate – recommendations for accounting methodology for Recycled Carbon Fuels

Zero Waste Europe released a policy briefing to act as guidance for the European Commission. In light of their proposals on accounting methodology for potential greenhouse gas emissions from so called ‘recycled carbon fuels’.

Available in English

Recycled Carbon Fuels in the Renewable Energy Directive

Our latest policy briefing with Bellona EU & the Rethink Plastic alliance concerns using non-renewable plastic fuels under transport targets within REDII, making recommendations for how to maintain circular economy promises.

Building a bridge strategy for residual waste. Material Recovery and Biological Treatment to manage residual waste within a circular economy

Zero Waste Europe releases today a policy briefing which highlights the importance of defining a new strategy for managing residual waste that corresponds with the requirements of the age of climate emergency that we are living in. The report defines an approach based on Material Recovery and Biological Treatment as a bridge strategy for managing residuals within a circular economy.

Available in English, Polish & Italian.

FAQ on COVID-19 and zero waste

Zero Waste Europe analyses the impacts of COVID-19 on zero waste and suggests what can be done to keep working toward a zero waste future.

Available in English, Czech & Italian.

Joint NGOs Statement – Ten Priorities for the European Commission’s Climate Taxonomy Delegated Acts

We joined other nearly 100 NGOs, to call on the European Commission to implement an effective and science-based EU Climate Taxonomy Delegated Acts. If done properly, the Taxonomy should help end greenwashing in the finance sector by showing which investments are truly sustainable. The Taxonomy can also play an even bigger role, helping the post-crisis EU economy become more resilient by guiding the EU’s green recovery spending. Read the ten demands and full list of signatories.

Available in English.

The landfill target may work against the circular economy. Should we minimise percentages or tonnes?

This Policy Briefing which analyses in depth the new Landfill Directive, part of the Circular Economy Package adopted in 2018. Specifically, the landfill minimisation target obliges Member States to limit the amount of municipal waste due to be landfilled to 10% or less of municipal waste generated at any given year by 2035.  As the briefing describes, meeting the target is extremely challenging and the way it’s defined and must be calculated (in any given year and defined as a percentage) may contradict the overarching principles of the EU Circular Economy Agenda.


Available in English, Spanish & French

Hidden temperatures: emissions implications of temperatures in the post-combustion zone of waste incinerators

This Case Study written by ToxicoWatch puts the spotlight on the REC Dutch waste incineration plant, highlighting current failures to provide transparency, clear policy guidance and effective implementation.


Available in English.

Letter to EU Commission on new subsidies for waste-to-energy plants in Poland

The European Commission approved new Cohesion Fund aid of more than €100m to build two waste-to-energy incineration plants in Poland. Our Polish member, TNZ, highlights in a letter how this contradicts other commission legislation, such as the recently approved taxonomy regulation.

Available in English

Climate Bonds Initiative criteria for waste management

The Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) claims to be the world’s preeminent authority on sustainable finance. Yet its recently published Waste Management Criteria endorses waste incineration outside the EU as a sustainable investment. This reveals an alarming double standard in its environmental and social principles and ignores the demands of more than a hundred civil society organisations that urged CBI to protect the circular economy and the climate from this technology. Read our policy paper.

Available in English.

Counting Carbon: a lifecycle assessment guide for plastic fuels

Converting fossil plastics to fuels is sometimes marketed as a part of the solution to the environmental and waste problems the plastic industry is currently facing. This briefing shows that when full cradle-to-grave lifecycle assessments are made, the fossil carbon embedded within plastics becomes much more apparent. Policy briefing with Rethink Plastic alliance and Bellona EU.


Available in English

Zero Waste Europe response to the new Circular Economy Action Plan Consultation

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the European Commission’s commitment to developing its Circular Economy efforts as part of the European Green Deal and we are happy to submit our recommendations in line with our vision to create a zero waste Europe.  Read our response to the new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) Consultation.

Available in English.

Waste Incineration getting away with CO2 emissions unscathed

Evidence shows that waste incineration has a high impact on our climate, yet it’s not part of any scheme to progressively reduce CO2 emissions. This case study written by Žiedinė Ekonomika uses the example of the “Fortum Klaipeda” waste co-incineration plant in Lithuania to illustrate how waste incineration plants could be included under the EU ETS at EU or national level and outlines at the potential impact such inclusion on driving better waste management in Europe.

Available in English and French.

The Belgrade solid waste public-private partnership

CEE Bankwatch Network, Counter Balance and Zero Waste Europe have published an analysis on the Belgrade solid waste public-private partnership (PPP).  A case plagued by legal irregularities and circumvented binding decision-making processes.

Available in English.

The hidden impacts of incineration residues

Waste incinerators in the Netherlands create a large amount of toxic residues (bottom and fly ash) which are increasingly used in so called useful applications under the Green Deal agreement. The evidence shows that the current standards for the safety of this practice are outdated posing a significant threat to human health and the environment.

Available in English & Lithuanian

A story of hidden emission: The case of Sant Adrià de Besós Incinerator

Toxic emissions and polluted air: the Waste-To-Energy plant of Sant Adria de Besos in Barcelona works at a high cost for the environment and the local community. Hungry for more? Read our blog in English.


Available in Spanish


Guidelines for the implementation of article 3(3) of the REDII regarding support schemes for waste incineration

The revised Renewable Energy Directive sets a framework for the promotion of energy from renewable sources, such as biomass. This document intends to provide a methodology to guide Member States in implementing it in alignment with the circular economy.


Available in English



The impact of Waste-to-Energy incineration on climate

Waste-to-Energy incineration is sometimes promoted as a low-carbon source of energy, justifying increasing quantities of waste burned to produce electricity. The evidence, however, suggests that the carbon intensity of energy produced through incineration is greater than the one of the current EU average electricity grid intensity while having significantly more adverse climate impacts than conventional electricity generation.


Available in English & French


Waste-to-Energy is not Sustainable Business, the EU says

The EU has excluded waste-to-energy incineration from a list of economic activities considered ‘sustainable finance’, those that can make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation and which do no significant harm to other environmental objectives such as transition to a circular economy, waste prevention and recycling.


Available in English


Guidelines for the implementation of Article 3(3) of the REDII as regards to raw material market distortions

The revised Renewable Energy Directive sets a common framework for the promotion of energy from renewable sources such as biomass. This document intends to provide a methodology to guide Member States in implementing it in alignment with the circular economy.


Available in English


Communiqué sur l’incinération des déchets en Europe en relation avec la situation au Maroc

Le Maroc fait actuellement face à une crise des décharges liée notamment aux odeurs que celles-ci provoquent. Pour y remédier, le pays se penche vers des projets de construction d’incinérateurs. Zero Waste Europe invite le Maroc à s’inspirer des systèmes et technologies qui fonctionnent dans le cadre d’une économie circulaire.


Available in French.


EU funding must leapfrog fossil fuel use to renewable energy and energy savings

Environmental NGOs call on the European Parliament to ensure EU funding leapfrogs fossil fuel use to renewable energy and energy savings.


Available in English

The hidden costs of incineration: the case of Madeira and Azores

Nothing prevents islands from achieving ambitious waste reduction and recycling targets – but waste incineration can slow them down.

Available in English, French and Spanish

Hidden emissions: a story from the Netherlands

Although presented as state of the art, the youngest incinerator in the Netherlands is far from a clean: long-term tests reveal emissions of dioxin, furan and persistent organic pollutants far beyond the limits.

Available in English

Policy briefing on the Cohesion Fund post-2020

The Circular Economy legislation creates an opportunity to be either seized or missed for a long time, and it is key that the Cohesion Fund supports this transition. Read our policy briefing!

Available in: English

Burning waste in cement kilns: the case of Lafarge Trbovlje

Burning waste in cement kilns is a widespread practice, but what impact does it have on citizens’ health and the environment?

The case of the Lafarge Trbovlje cement plant highlights a number of controversial issues in the area of waste incineration and co-incineration.

Available in English.

Burning waste in cement kilns: the story of Calusco d’Adda

Burning waste in cement kilns is a widespread practice, but what is its impact on citizens’ health and the environment?
The story Calusco d’Adda shows how waste-based fuels can increase pollutants emissions with significant effects on human health.

Available in: English.

Statement on incineration in Latin America

Zero waste good practices are cheaper, more flexible, less pollutant, more participatory, and generate more jobs than incineration. Read Zero Waste Europe statement on waste incineration in Europe and Latin America.

Available in: Spanish

Climate Finance for the Waste Management Sector

This policy briefing looks at the false climate solutions promoted by the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The false solutions including the burning of refuse derived fuel (RDF) are emitters of greenhouse gases and could undermine the GCF’s climate mitigation efforts.

Available in English

Embodied Energy: A driver for the circular economy?

A briefing paper on the use of embodied energy in product policy. The paper looks at the basis for an indicator of the energy which is embodied in a product and how this could be used to reinforce circular economy practice.

Available in: English

Creating a Toxic Free World: avoiding a collision between the EU and the Circular Economy

Our briefing in advance of the 2017 ex-COP. Calling for the EU to align its international policy on toxics with the Circular Economy, for a clean and toxic free future.

Available in English

Position on the Revised Renewable Energy Directive

Zero Waste Europe’s March 2017 position paper on the revised Renewable Energy Directive. Highlighting key contradictions between RED II and Circular Economy policies.

Available in English

Harmful subsidies to waste-to-energy incineration

This policy paper looks at the harmful subsidies which are directed to waste-to-energy under the guise of renewable energy.

Available in English

Air Pollution from Waste Disposal: Not for Public Breath

This report looks at the many problems, legal, environmental and epidemiological that waste incineration plants across Europe are facing.

The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy

A report into the potential that waste management poses for the transition to a low carbon economy. This report commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+  and conducted by Eunomia, highlights key problems with the current UNFCCC waste inventories, as well as providing recommendations for their improvement.