Products, Good Design, & Plastics

We promote the redesign of products to make them durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and toxic-free

If a product cannot be reused, repaired, disassembled, remanufactured, recycled or composted it should be redesigned or progressively phased out from the market.


The current throw-away linear economy is based on products that are designed deliberately to be non-repairable, very often toxic, and not compatible with a circular economy. For instance, plastic pollution caused by excessive single-use packaging, microbeads present in cosmetic products and microfibres coming from washing synthetic clothes are contaminating the environment and poisoning the food chain. Since it is impossible to clean all plastic out there the only possible option is to redesign materials, products and processes in order to stop plastic from entering the environment in the first place.


Good product design is a prerequisite to make zero waste a reality; it allows embodied energy to stay in the system for longer effectively preserving the value of materials and allowing for a circular economy that is resilient, creates local jobs and does not harm people.


Zero Waste Europe engages with citizens and municipalities to identify problematic design and mobilises designers, researchers, companies and policy-makers in order to find appropriate alternatives.

Love Zero Waste Multimedia Series

Reuse with Joan Marc Simon
Packaging Free with Larissa Copello
Environmenstrual with Larissa Copello
Period Proud with Sofia Sydorenko
Plastics & Health with Susana Fonseca
Plastics & Reuse with Katja Sres
Lifecycle plastics with Justine Maillot

Projects to note

See our latest work on menstrual products, baby nappies and wet wipes with ReZero, Break Free From Plastic and Reloop.
Food Contact Materials
Work to highlight the health impacts of toxic chemicals in food packaging.
Plastic in the Spotlight
Looking at the impact of plastic on human health. Coming soon!
Plastic Bag Free Day
Taking one step closer to a plastic bag free world every 3rd of July.
People's Design Lab
A space for European citizens to come together and help change design.
Flame Retardant Free Furniture
This campaign with partners from across Europe tackles the toxic flame retardants in our furniture which are doing more harm than good.

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Library for Consumption & Production

Library for Products, Good Design, & Plastics

Open letter to the Parliament of the European Union – Stop sale and imports of illegal products via online marketplaces

Online marketplaces shall be liable when no other actor located in the EU is responsible for products sold to European consumers. This is the demand of a broad alliance of environmental and industry organisations in an open letter to the European Parliament, which is just drafting its position on several legislative proposals regulating digital markets and product safety.


Available in English

New Business Models Cutting Back on Single-Use Plastic

This research conducted at the Sustainable Consumption Institute by Mariel Vilella, Director of Global Strategy at Zero Waste Europe, in collaboration with GAIA and BFFP, looks at examples of successful business models that are successfully contributing to the reduction of single-use plastic consumption, exploring their impact and the key conditions for their replication and growth.


Available in English

Harmful chemicals in food packaging are putting our health at risk

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Zero Waste Europe, the European Consumer Organisation BEUC, CHEM Trust and ClientEarth have joined hands to bust some of the most popular myths surrounding chemicals used in food contact materials. Our latest infographic illustrates how the chemicals used in the production, processing, preparation, and packaging of food may put our health at risk.


Available in English

Shit got real! It’s time to clear out plastic & chemicals from nappies, not just the poo

In the context of #ReusableNappyWeek 2021, we throw the spotlight on baby nappies by exposing the impacts related to the production and consumption of conventional single-use baby nappies; showcasing the reusable solutions and their benefits; and demanding policy change at the European, national and local level.


Available in English

The UNWRAPPED Project’s toolkit. Exposing the health risk of food packaging chemicals

As part of the UNWRAPPED Project, we have developed a toolkit to throw a spotlight on the human health risks posed by plastics and other food packaging materials. The 9 factsheets present facts and figures about how disposable food packaging can be harmful to human health and call for corporate and decision-makers to put an end to single-use packaging and take a precautionary approach to use harmful chemicals that are known to migrate out of packaging and cause human health impacts.


Available in English (other languages are coming soon)!

Recycling of multilayer composite packaging: the beverage carton

New research commissioned by Zero Waste Europe to Eunomia Research & Consulting has revealed that the actual beverage carton recycling rate in four European countries is far below what is currently being reported.

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

Reducing packaging waste: choose prevention and reuse

Together with the University of Utrecht and Reloop we released a report highlighting that reusable packaging produces far fewer carbon emissions than their single-use counterparts. Read our policy recommendations to reduce packaging waste and to build efficiently reusable systems.

Available in English 

Infographic: Reusable VS single-use packaging – A review of environmental impact

Together with the University of Utrecht and Reloop we released a report highlighting that reusable packaging produces far fewer carbon emissions than their single-use counterparts. Read the report’s key findings in our infographic.

Available in English & Hungarian

Executive summary: Reusable VS single-use packaging – A review of environmental impact

Together with the University of Utrecht and Reloop we released a report highlighting that reusable packaging produces far fewer carbon emissions than their single-use counterparts. Download the executive summary and read the report at

Available in English 

Reusable VS single-use packaging: a review of environmental impact

Together with the University of Utrecht and Reloop we released a report highlighting that reusable packaging – such as bottles, crates, jars, and others – produces far fewer carbon emissions than their single-use counterparts.

Available in English 

The Bloody Manifesto

We are asking the European Commission to act by setting the necessary policy framework to support and empower menstruators to access safe, fair & circular menstrual products – in line with the EU’s circular economy objective. Our manifesto is open for signatures at the following link:

How to make Packaging Free Shops go mainstream?

Drawing from the findings of the pioneer study on the state of packaging free shops in Europe, Zero Waste Europe makes the case for the European Union to put in place a set of legislative and economic measures to support expanding the packaging free shops market.

Available in English

Packaging Free Shops in Europe – An initial report

Zero Waste Europe Packaging Free Shops in Europe - An initial report

Zero Waste Europe releases the first ever European study on the state of play and the potential growth for the packaging free shops market. Conducted by Eunomia, in collaboration with Réseau Vrac and the Zero Waste Europe network.

Available in English, Slovenian, Spanish and Hungarian

Reusable Packaging and COVID-19

Zero Waste Europe and Reloop analyse the situation of reuse and refill systems in light of COVID-19. While industry pushes for single use, there is no evidence that single-use packaging contributes to the spread of the virus any less or more than reusables.

Available in English & Swedish

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.

Towards safe food contact materials in a toxic-free circular economy

We have the opportunity to reform EU legislation on chemicals in food packaging to make it safe and reusable. Our latest policy briefing outlines recommendations to ensure a toxic-free circular economy. 

Available in English

Unwanted toxic flame retardants preventing circularity and increasing fire toxicity

The Flame Retardant Free Furniture Alliance presents its latest position paper on unwanted toxic flame retardants preventing circularity and fire toxicity in light of the New Circular Economy Action Plan.

Available in English

Zero Waste Europe’s Feedback on the Farm to Fork Strategy: towards a food system free of chemicals, overpackaging and waste

The Farm to Fork Strategy presents a great opportunity to profoundly reshape our relation to food and design food waste, hazardous chemicals and overpackaging out of our food system. Addressing such issues specifically requires a holistic vision leading to coordinated actions all along the food supply chain. Read Zero Waste Europe’s feedback on the new Farm to Fork Strategy Roadmap.

Available in English

A Declaration of Concern and Call to Action regarding Plastics, Packaging, and Human Health

Declaration of Concern and call to action led by Zero Waste Europe, GAIA Asia-Pacific, GAIA US, and Upstream – signed by 160+ organisations worldwide demanding that lawmakers protect us from hazardous chemicals in food packaging.

Available in English.

Policy recommendations to make menstrual products, nappies and wet wipes circular

Policy briefing by Zero Waste Europe bringing together our previous two reports on (1) the environmental and economic impacts of single-use menstrual products, nappies and wet wipes and (2) existing measures and future policy recommendations to minimise their impact.

Available in English.



Existing measures & policy recommendations to minimise the impact of menstrual products, nappies & wet wipes

Report by ReZero and Zero Waste Europe. The report is a follow-up to our previous report on the environmental and economic impacts of single-use menstrual products, nappies and wet wipes and looks at existing measures and future policy recommendations to minimise their impact.

Available in English.



The Story of Too Good To Go

Zero Waste Europe releases its new Consumption & Production Case Study, which promotes zero waste business models: The Story of Too Good To Go, a fast growing company making the link between shops whose food is about to be wasted and consumers who love a good deal.

Available in English, French, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese and German.

Material substitution within the SUP Directive

Joint Policy Briefing signed by Zero Waste Europe and Reloop Platform to provide the European Commission with clear recommendations on the implementation phase of the Single Use Plastic Directive.

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.

Deposit Return Systems (DRS) Manifesto

We want Europe to move towards a Circular Zero Waste Economy that retains value by reusing materials, uses recycling as a last resort and ensures that no waste is leaked into the environment. Deposit Return Systems (DRS) have proven to be the most effective and sustainable way to make this happen. That is why we wrote, in partnership with other organisations, the DRS Manifesto: a summary of all the benefits Deposit Return Systems can bring and a list of demands to EU institutions and members states to preserve the value of materials and reduce leakage into the environment.

Avaiable in English

The Story of Unverpackt

The Story of Unverpackt is the sixth chapter of the Zero Waste Europe Consumption & Production Case Studies series aimed at promoting zero waste business models.

Since opening in February 2014, Germany’s first packaging-free store Unverpackt in Kiel, has been pursuing a drastic reduction of packaging waste while motivating customers to rethink their consumer behavior. More than 100 stores in Germany are already following this example, the zero waste retail movement has only just begun.

Available in English & German

The environmental & economic costs of single-use menstrual products, baby nappies & wet wipes

Report by ReZero, Zero Waste Europe, ReLoop and Break Free From Plastic. The report details the environmental and economic impacts of single-use menstrual products, baby nappies, and wet wipes across the EU-28.

Available in English & French.

Smoke and mirrors: exposing the reality of carpet ‘recycling’ in the UK

Report based on research by Eunomia Consulting, UKWIN and the Changing Markets Foundation. Looking to expose the reality of  carpet ‘recycling’ in the UK  and beyond.

Available in English.

Safe fire safety for everyone: avoid toxic flame retardants in our furniture

The Alliance for Flame Retardant Free Furniture released a position paper calling on EU-wide action against the use of flame retardants in furniture and bedding. The paper also points out the importance for the EU institutions to tap into the potential of toxic-free safe fire safety in support of a circular economy.

Available in English.

The story of PHENIX: a recipe to effectively enforce food waste reduction targets

In 5 years, PHENIX saved 30.000 tonnes of food products and distributed 60 millions meals across France, proving that it is possible to prevent food waste and create new jobs while saving money.  


Available in English



Unfolding the Single-Use Plastics Directive

In May 2019 the EU formally approved a pioneer legislation to curb single-use plastics – and no, it is not just about banning straws. This paper presents an overview of the new Single-Use Plastics Directive, and our recommendations for an effective implementation at the national level.

Available in English

The story of RePack: a simple solution to the growing problem of e-commerce waste

How Zero Waste and online shopping work together?
RePack is a closed-loop system that can reduce e-commerce packaging by 96%
while providing the same consumer experience as the disposable one.


Product policy: repair instructions for a true circular economy

We want our products to be long-lasting, repairable, recyclable and toxic-free. Here are our recommendations to rethink EU product policy and improve product design with circularity in mind.


Available in English


The story of eReuse

Imagine expanding the life of electronic devices while incorporating blockchain traceability technology capable of creating 1 job for every 300 items reused. Now imagine ensuring a 95% recycling rate and transforming a cost for municipalities into revenue that stays in the community. This is not imagination, this is eReuse: a perfect example of how symbiosis between the digital agenda and waste management can create value, sustainability and jobs.

Available in: English. Other languages coming soon!

Carpet producers support mandatory action to make the sector go circular

Carpet manufacturers, industry associations and civil society join voices to make the carpet industry go circular.

Available in English

NGO recommendations for a sustainable EU bioeconomy

In 2012, the EU released the Communication, “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe”, which is now in the process of being updated. The bioeconomy is an increasing part of the environmental narrative as it includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries and the products provided by these sectors. NGOs, scientists and policy-makers are therefore raising questions about the true potential of a ‘bioeconomy’, as well as the risks and trade-offs, in the context of long-term climate goals.

Available in English

The story of FreiburgCup

In November 2016, Freiburg decided to stop the flood of disposable coffee cups. Less than two years later, Freiburg has proven how a mid-size city can push for alternatives to the throw-away society and define the political agenda.

Available in: English and French. Other languages coming soon!

Reusable & toxic-free menstrual products: making women’s lives better while fighting plastic pollution

Beyond representing a major source of plastic pollution, disposable menstrual products come at a high cost for women, in terms of both budget and health hazard.

Zero Waste Europe calls on policy makers to ensure that women have access to toxic-free, reusable alternatives.

Available in English.

The Story of Recircle

Recircle has arrived to transform take-away restaurants. In two years, more than 400 restaurants across Switzerland are already using Recircle’s 70,000 reusable meal boxes.

A winning solution that prevents waste and saves money to restaurants and cities.

Unwrapped: how throwaway plastic is failing to solve Europe’s food waste problem (and what we need to do instead)

Food waste and plastic waste are two major economic, environmental and social challenges facing Europe. The report shows how a rise in plastic food packaging is failing to reduce Europe’s growing food waste problem, and in some cases may even be fueling it.
Available in: English. 

Smartphone regulation – Open letter to president Juncker

Smartphone regulation – Open letter to President Juncker.

Available in English.

Circular economy opportunities for digital products

The joint policy paper by Zero Waste Europe, ECOS, EEB, IFIXIT and Rreuse complements Digital Europe’s publication “The Contribution of the Digital Industry in a Circular Economy” with additional perspectives, and challenge the digital industry’s conclusions with regard to policy options.

Available in English

Seizing the opportunity: using plastic only where it makes sense

The policy paper looks at existing alternatives to fast-moving and short-lived plastic applications and calls for the EU to introduce reduction targets for single-use plastics within the EU Strategy on Plastics in the Circular Economy.

Available in English

Extended Producer Responsibility: creating the frame for circular products

This position paper outlines that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), if used well, can be one of the cornerstones of the transition towards a circular economy. It is a tool that has the potential to provide economic incentives for producers to better design their products, while better implementing the polluter pays principle and penalizing non-circular products.

Redesigning Producer Responsibility: A new EPR is needed for a circular economy

A new study commissioned by Zero Waste Europe finding majority of product waste is not covered by current Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and calling for redesign in order to move towards a circular economy. This download contains the full report.