What’s inside food-contact paper packaging? Plastic.

After the well-deserved spotlight given to single-use plastics when it comes to their serious environmental impacts, single-use paper-based and cardboard packaging have covertly taken their space, supposedly as a more ‘sustainable alternative’. The associated narrative has, however, created room for doubts (both from consumers and policy-makers) and for misleading solutions But is switching from one single-use material to another (e.g. plastic to paper) really a solution for the ever-growing packaging waste crisis? While the paper and cardboard industry claims so, evidence has proven that these allegations are distorted and false.

This joint factsheet by Zero Waste Europe, #breakfreefromplastic, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), the Environmental Paper Network (EPN), Recycling Netwerk Benelux (RNB), and the Rethink Plastic alliance explores the material aspects of paper and cardboard packaging used for direct food contact applications – including, among others, the findings from the “Functionalisation of Paper and Cardboard” report by M.+Me Recyclage.

Available in English, Lithuanian, and Portuguese.

The story of Calatafimi Segesta

The Sicilian municipality of Calatafimi Segesta may be small, but it provides one of Europe’s leading examples of how an island municipality can implement an effective zero waste strategy whilst also focusing on improving the lives of the local community. Despite receiving high-levels of tourism each year and having a dense, historic area in its centre, Calatafimi Segesta still achieved a 85% separate collection rate and generated just 88kgs of residual waste per person in 2022.

The municipality achieved these impressive results through a process of implementing a zero waste strategy at its core, with a focus on door-to-door collection of materials and the prioritisation of capturing organics, with supplementary incentives offered to residents who home composted. The decision not to build or extend local incineration capacity has allowed the municipality to implement ambitious policies that have delivered results.

Since its political commitment to become a Zero Waste City in 2011, the municipality has doubled the amount of materials separately collected for recycling and reuse. In this same timespan, they have reduced the volume of residual waste by two-thirds.

Available in English and Italian.

The story of reWINE

In the wine industry, single-use glass is heavily used for packaging. On the one hand, glass has the greatest environmental impacts compared to other packaging materials (i.e. PET, aluminium, and beverage carton). On the other hand, glass is 100% reusable and 100% recyclable at the end of its life cycle, and is an inert material, which makes it more suitable as a food contact material.

The reWINE project proves that a circular and more sustainable way of consuming wine is possible.

Let’s start the tasting tour!

Available in Catalan, English, French, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Slovenian, and Spanish.

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 story of PHENIX

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.



The story of RePack

How do 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.

Discover more on our case study.

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.

eReuse is a perfect example of how a symbiosis between the digital agenda and waste management can create value, sustainability, and jobs.

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 throwaway society and define the political agenda.

Available in English and French.

The Story of Recircle

Recircle has arrived to transform takeaway restaurants. After two years, more than 400 restaurants across Switzerland were using Recircle’s 70,000 reusable meal boxes.

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

Available in English and French.

The Story of Sardinia

Fifteen years ago Sardinia was Italy’s worst performing region in waste management. Today, it is the best-performing island in the Mediterranean. Who said zero waste cannot work in tourist destinations?

Available in English, French, and Spanish.

The Story of Roubaix

Lacking the power to implement waste collection and management practices, Roubaix had to find new ways to transition to zero waste. The town is addressing waste at source by creating a vibrant constellation of actors committed to reducing their waste, including families, schools, and businesses.

Available in English and Hungarian.

The Story of Parma

In the North of Italy, the city of Parma presents a vivid example of a transition from traditional waste management to zero waste in only 4 years. The key factors for their success include political will, involvement of civil society, and a strategy based on minimising residual waste.

Available in English, Catalan, French, Polish, and Slovenian.

The story of Gipuzkoa

The province of Gipuzkoa, in Spanish Basque Country, has almost doubled their recycling rates in 4 years. In 2011 they struggled to meet EU targets; now they are above 2020’s goals and intend to keep improving.

Gipuzkoa still has a long way toward zero waste, but is already proving that laggards can move very quickly. Learn more about this on our case study.

Available in English, Catalan, and Polish.

The story of Ljubljana

The Slovenian capital was the first capital in Europe to declare the zero waste goal and, in 2014, separately collected 61% of its municipal waste. The city has committed to halving the amount of residuals and increasing separate collection to 78% by 2025.

How did Ljubljana manage to become the EU’s best performing capital when, 10 years ago, it had barely started implementing separate collection? Find out on our case study.

Available in English, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Polish, Slovenian, and Spanish.

The Story of Contarina

The public company Contarina serves the districts of Priula and Treviso in Northern Italy, the best performers in waste prevention and recycling in a wide area of Europe.

What is the secret for Contarina to recycle two times the European average and generate five times less residual waste? Find out on this case study.

Available in English, Bulgarian, Catalan, French, Italian, Polish, Slovenian, and Spanish.


The Story of Capannori

Located in the North of Italy, Capannori has one of the highest municipal recycling rates in Europe. This zero waste town exemplifies how strong policy decisions and community participation achieving groundbreaking results.

This case study reviews the story of their success to date.

Available in English, Bulgarian, Catalan, Euskera, French, Italian, Polish, Romanian, and Spanish.