Realistic waste reduction targets in the Waste Framework Directive (WFD)

The Prevent Waste Coalition, composed of leading environmental and food advocacy organisations, is calling on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union to implement more ambitious food waste reduction targets in the revised Waste Framework Directive (WFD).

Key findings from our research include the capability of food businesses to meet a 50% reduction target by 2030 and a substantial positive return on investment in waste reduction efforts, with a cost-benefit ratio of 14:1. We urge policymakers to recognise the economic and environmental imperatives for setting higher targets, emphasizing that ambitious, legally-binding goals will drive innovation and efficiency across the food supply chain. The current proposed targets are insufficient, and we advocate for higher standards to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for all Europeans.

Available in English.

Feasibility of ambitious legally binding EU food waste reduction targets

An estimated 40% of food is wasted globally, which causes an estimated 8–10% of global emissions, and uses an estimated 28% of the world’s agricultural land area, larger than China and India combined.

65 organisations from 20 EU countries, including Zero Waste Europe, have signed a statement calling for the EU to introduce legally-binding targets to reduce EU food loss and waste by 50% from farm to fork by 2030.

This briefing provides evidence that ambitious legally binding food waste reduction targets for EU Member States under the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) are both feasible and will result in significant cost savings.

Available in English.

Joint letter calling on the European Parliament to strengthen food waste reduction targets in the Waste Framework Directive revision

65 non-profit and business organisations from 22 EU countries call on the European Parliament to introduce ambitious, legally binding targets to halve food waste by 2030 in the ongoing revision of the EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD).

Reducing food waste is one of the most impactful measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, ambitious food waste reduction targets represent a unique opportunity to help achieve EU climate goals.

Together with 65 European organisations, the ‘Prevent Waste Coalition on Food Waste’ (composed of the European Environmental Bureau, Feedback EU, Safe Food Advocacy Europe, Too Good To Go, and Zero Waste Europe) is therefore calling for legally binding targets for EU Member States to reduce their food loss and waste by 50% by 2030, at all stages of the supply chain.

Available in English.

Feedback to the proposal for a targeted revision of the Waste Framework Directive

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the proposal for a targeted revision of the Waste Framework Directive, introducing food waste reduction targets and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for textiles. Yet, the proposal falls short of addressing some of the pain points ZWE has raised for year, among which are the lack of action on residual waste generation, the overhaul of the definition of recycling, and targets for bio-waste collection. In the long run, ZWE urges the EU to revise the directive to align with the EU climate targets and introduce a law on resource/material use.

Available in English

Assessing Climate Impact: Reusable Systems vs. Single-use Takeaway Packaging

In this study authored by Zero Waste Europe, Reloop, and TOMRA, and produced by Eunomia Research & Consulting Eunomia, reusable take-away packaging demonstrates its potential for significant greenhouse gas emission reductions compared to single-use alternatives. The study examines various packaging types, including cups, burger boxes, bowls, pizza boxes, and sushi containers, highlighting emissions reduction potential with efficient return and washing systems.

The study identifies breakeven points, such as return rates for bowls and coffee cups to match single-use carbon footprints. Envisioned in 2030, the study foresees efficient collection, washing, and redistribution of reusable packaging, emphasising its role in a cleaner and sustainable future. These findings guide effective reusable system implementation, stressing emissions reduction and design importance, encouraging large-scale trials for validation and refinement.

Executive summary available in English, French, Italian, Croatian, and Ukrainian.

Full report available in English.

Food packaging: safety first

Despite increased attention being paid to the sustainability and principles of circular economy in the European Union, there is a general lack of holistic and harmonised legislative approaches towards materials’ circularity and the critical aspects of their chemical safety. A more coherent EU policy on consumer safety issues is not only highly desirable, but human biomonitoring data on harmful chemicals detected in the entire EU population show that it is urgently needed.

This ZWE policy briefing lays out proof and tried-and-test arguments towards toxic-free and future-proof packaging.

Executive Summary available in English and French.

Full briefing available in English.

Joint letter on the need to include bio-waste targets in the Waste Framework Directive

The mandatory bio-waste collection in the EU, slated to begin on the 1st of January 2024, lacks concrete collection targets which will pave the way for inadequate schemes that fail to address the issue at hand. Bio-waste holds immense potential for recycling valuable resources. Yet, evidence shows that without a concerted effort to capture and utilise bio-waste, we will fall short of the ambitious 65% recycling target by 2035. A mere 34% of the total bio-waste was collected in 2018, leaving a staggering 40 million tonnes of potential soil nutrients to be discarded, polluting our environment and squandering invaluable resources. Our environment, our communities, and our future generations deserve better.

The signatories of this joint letter, including MEPs, environmental organisations, and industry leaders, demand mandatory targets on bio-waste reduction within the current revision of the WFD, and call on the European Commission to provide proper guidance and tools to Member States to achieve them. Adopting specific targets for biowaste in residual waste aims to incentivize proper collection and recycling practices.

Unwrapping the biowaste potential

This report commissioned to European Circular Bioeconomy Policy Initiative by the EEB, the European Bioeconomy Bureau, CRE – Composting & Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland, Zero Waste Europe, and the Consorzio Italiano Compostatori, lays out the operational, environmental and economic benefits of reducing plastic pollution in biowaste, compost and digestate in the EU.

Available in English.

Ireland’s plan on single-use and plastic packaging

In September 2020, the Irish government adopted its national waste action plan for 2020-2025. The plan – which will have to be enacted through the adoption of a circular economy bill – has the ambition to tackle waste generation and move towards a circular economy through prevention measures. The plan contains several ambitious provisions on single-use plastic and packaging which go beyond the requirements of EU Single-Use Plastics Directive,bsuch as extended bans on certain single-use plastic products or a levy on single-use coffee cups.

France’s law promoting bulk and reusable packaging

In December 2019, France adopted an ambitious law on waste prevention and circular economy. The law touches upon a variety of topics such as plastic packaging, awareness-raising actions, or extended producer responsibility (EPR). Although not all measures in this law are ambitious, the document contains pioneering measures to support the development of bulk selling activities and the uptake of reusable packaging.

The Catalan law on food loss and waste prevention

In March 2020, The government of Catalonia adopted a pioneering law aiming to reduce food waste and loss. Unlike many pieces of legislation, the Catalan law focuses on all steps of the food supply chain and seeks to promote food waste prevention, rather than encouraging food donation. This is carried out through various obligations for stakeholders across the supply chain on the adoption of specific measures, thus including the primary sector.

Lithuania’s law for donation of food waste

In September 2016, Lithuania passed a law that aimed to reduce food waste by easing donations for charity purposes. The law clearly defines that food products past their “best before” deadline are still suitable for donations and gives clear guidelines on how for a safe process. Additionally, the Lithuanian law allows a deduction of up to 40% of tax profits if acting under the Charity law.

Zero Waste Europe’s feedback on the food waste reduction target roadmap

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the initiative of the European Commission to start the process to set-up binding food waste reduction targets across the EU. Food waste is a multifold problem that not only causes environmental and climate damage but is also morally unacceptable.

Therefore, it is essential to properly address this issue by adopting efficient and ambitious targets for the coming years.


Available in English.

The Story of Milan

In 2011, the city of Milan started implementing an ambitious scheme to separately collect bio-waste and recycle it. With 1.4 million inhabitants and an extremely densely populated area, this wasn’t an easy task as bio-waste collection schemes are more difficult to set up in big cities. However, after 10 years, Milan is now one of the leading examples, with 95 kilograms of bio-waste collected per inhabitant and a 62% waste collection rate.

With the 1 January 2024 deadline for all EU Member States to collect bio-waste separately, the story of Milan shows how other cities across Europe can follow in their footsteps to effectively collect and manage food waste, even in the challenging circumstances that large, densely-populated cities provide.

Italy’s law for donation and distribution of food and pharmaceuticals to limit food waste

In August 2016, Italy passed a law which aimed to reduce food waste at each step of the food supply chain with a strong focus on donation and distribution of food waste and pharmaceutical products. Instead of penalising, the law incentivises entities to donate or distribute food about to be wasted through tax rebates. Read more in our factsheet.

Available in English, Hungarian and Italian.

The Balearic Islands’ law for waste and polluted land

In January 2019, the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands approved a pioneering law on waste prevention that contained various measures and targets designed to solve the islands’ waste problem. Through a combination of measures on general waste generation and for specific streams, such as single-use plastics or food waste, the legislation offers a strong example of how to adopt a law that takes a comprehensive approach to the issue of pollution occuring from waste generation. Read more in our factsheet.

Available in English, Hungarian and Italian.

France’s law for fighting food waste

In February 2016, France adopted a law on fighting food waste that meant supermarkets were forbidden to destroy unsold food products and were compelled to donate it instead. This law constituted the starting point of the fight against food waste through banning its destruction and facilitating donation. Since the adoption, its scope has been extended further, as defined through new decrees and laws. Read more in our factsheet.

Available in English, Hungarian and Italian.

European Commission commitment on tackling food waste in the Farm to Fork Strategy

We joined forces with other 9 NGOs to ask the European Commission to rethink their food waste commitments in the recently released Farm to Fork Strategy. We suggest binding targets committing to a 50% reduction by 2030 and introducing food waste prevention as mandatory criteria for sustainable food procurement.

Available in English