Zero Waste Europe Strategic Framework 2022-24

Europe is in the midst of a transition and zero waste is part of it.

Ten years ago, the concept of zero waste was laughed at. Today, zero waste is mainstream, from being considered a practical approach to implementing a circular economy to a trending lifestyle globally. The efforts from civil society groups in Europe and around the world pushed the debate higher in the waste hierarchy. If at any time over the last twenty years reuse and prevention had a chance, it is now. And ZWE is committed to bringing that change forward.
From a content perspective, for the next 3 years, we will focus on bringing IN incentives and funding for the transition, phasing OUT toxics, lifting UP reuse, pushing for BETTER recycling and bringing waste disposal DOWN.

Our Strategic Framework for 2022-24 outlines the ZWE roadmap and goals for the coming years, with the ultimate aim of helping us achieve a zero waste future for Europe (and for the world, while we’re at it).

 

Available in English.

Waste trade and incineration – debunking an unnecessary alliance

To further limit the waste shipped outside its territory, the EU is looking at adopting new waste export bans. In this case, any surplus of waste should be absorbed by intra-EU recycling, prevention, and reuse activities. However, the incineration industry claims that potential waste export restrictions should lead to an increase in the need for incineration capacity.

This study demonstrates that the need for further incineration capacity resulting from new waste export bans is neither necessary nor justified.

Available in English.

The True Toxic Toll: Biomonitoring of incineration emissions

In Europe, waste incinerators are on the rise, often being promoted as a safe way to dispose of our waste.  The way emissions are measured only represents a tiny snapshot of the incinerator’s output – meaning, not all incineration emissions are evaluated. Zero Waste Europe coordinated a biomonitoring research on incinerator emissions across Europe, together with ToxicoWatch, Hnuti Duha, Ziedine Ekonomika, and Ecologists en Accion Spain. Biomonitoring is the measurement of pollutants which spread into the surrounding environment of an incinerator, and can be found within living organisms.

Full report and infographics available in English.
Executive Summary available in English, Croatian, and German.

Toxic Fallout – Waste Incinerator Bottom Ash in a Circular Economy

This report uses independent empirical research to evidence that incinerator bottom ash is insidiously hazardous and underregulated. Risk is heightened by the fact that testing methods for its use as a building material are outdated. A list of fifteen concerns for public health and safety is provided in relation to the use of waste incinerator bottom ash in cement-based products and as road/pathway aggregate. Calls for the support of its use within a circular economy are premature, and, as per the precautionary principle, all ongoing usage should cease. Examination of independently analysed bottom ash provides a diagnostic on the operational steady state of waste incinerators, incidentally raising concerns about operational compliance with emissions legislation and the capacity of incinerators to produce benign bottom ash when fed with municipal solid waste.

 

Available in English.

Chemical Recycling and Recovery – Recommendation to Categorise Thermal Decomposition of Plastic Waste to Molecular Level Feedstock as Chemical Recovery

The objective of this briefing is to provide a recommendation for categorising thermal decomposition of plastic waste into feedstock molecules as chemical recovery. This covers mainly pyrolysis and gasification techniques.
The European waste hierarchy for a circular economy must be operationalised to favour reduction, reuse, and, as a last resort, recycling. It is, thus, essential to distinguish plastic waste recycling operations from recovery techniques. As such, pre-treatment of plastic waste into feedstock molecule shall be classified as chemical recovery and not chemical recycling.

 

Available in English.

Waste Incineration under the EU ETS – An assessment of climate benefits

Municipal waste incineration is currently excluded from the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). If incineration is included, waste companies will have to buy emission credits for each tonne of CO2 they emit when treating household, company, and industrial waste. This additional cost of incineration can act as an incentive for waste prevention and recycling, which will then become more competitive (less costly) than incineration. 

A shift of (not biologically pre-treated) waste to landfills should be avoided and is already restricted under the Landfill Directive.

 The results of this study, requested by Zero Waste Europe and carried out by CE Delft, show that including incineration under the EU ETS would indeed encourage waste prevention and recycling, yielding both climate and employment benefits.

 

AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH

CCS for incinerators? An expensive distraction to a circular economy

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is being explored in response to climate concerns. When considering CCS for incinerators, it should be kept in mind that the top rung of the carbon mitigation hierarchy is generally accepted to be the ‘do not build’ option, i.e. to “evaluate the basic need for the project and explore alternative approaches to achieve the desired outcome/s”. Following this principle, proponents of CCS typically seek to justify their carbon capture projects on the basis that there is no viable alternative approach to delivering a necessary good or service. As there are viable alternative approaches to both resource management and energy generation, such an argument cannot be applied to defend CCS for municipal waste incinerators (MWIs).

This report presents key general and specific arguments on how CCS for incinerators is a distraction, instead of a solution, to incinerators’ carbon problem.

 

Available in English

Why PVC remains a problematic material

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe, with the input and support of Zero Waste Europe, Rethink Plastic and a total of 18 leading health and environmental organisations, has released a paper presenting a detailed insight into the complexity of health and environmental issues associated with the entire life cycle of PVC. All current evidence supports the simple proposition that PVC is problematic and that it presents significant, often avoidable health issues – the paper also includes examples of already successful phase-outs of PVC.

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

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

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