Functionalisation of paper and cardboard

Paper and cardboard require functionalisation so that they can be used in contact with food. Functionalisation may include adding a barrier function to water, grease, gases, etc. This is mainly achieved through the use of plastic, i.e. the combination of polymer(s) + additive(s). Paper and cardboard food packaging are, therefore, not free from plastic. As such, most paper and cardboard packaging remain at the same level as “single-use plastics”, as defined in the European Directive on Single-Use Plastics.

The English version of this report by M. + Mme Recyclage was made possible thanks to the contributions of Ville de Paris, Zero Waste Europe, the Rethink Plastic alliance, and the ReuSe Vanguard Project (RSVP).

Available in English.

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.

Response to 2040 EU climate target proposal: methane must be addressed

The Methane Matter Coalition, a coalition of non-profit organisations working on methane mitigation, has submitted a collective letter to the European Commission regarding the recently announced 2040 climate target. Enclosed within this letter are our recommendations aimed at significantly reducing methane emissions across various sectors within the EU, namely agriculture, waste management, and energy. These recommendations address key priority areas aligned with the 10 building blocks outlined in the 2040 proposal, emphasizing the importance of effective methane reduction strategies.

Sustainable resource management in the EU

White paper for an EU within planetary boundaries

Resource use is the big blind spot in the EU’s climate policy. 90% of global biodiversity loss and water stress, 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and over 30% of air pollution health impacts are caused by resource extraction and processing. We are calling on the EU to introduce a framework on sustainable resource management with science-based binding reduction targets. This policy paper, co-produced with eight other NGOs, outlines policy recommendations and arguments in favour of urgent action.

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.

Materials or gases? How to capture carbon

This study explores mixed waste sorting as a cost-effective strategy for substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from waste incineration, challenging the viability of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Comparing Leftover Mixed Waste Sorting (LMWS) and CCS, the study suggests LMWS as a swift, economical approach for municipalities and incineration operators to achieve significant GHG reductions, offering flexibility and avoiding excessive costs linked to CCS. The ‘low-regret’ nature of LMWS is highlighted, aiding Member States in meeting recycling and climate targets while reducing incineration capacity.

Available in English.

How to collect, sort, and reuse textile waste locally?

In view of the EU-wide mandatory separate collection of textile waste as of 2025, municipalities have the chance to align textile collection with the waste hierarchy and support a system of local reuse, particularly for clothing. This paper provides municipalities with an overview of good practices and lessons learned from the separate collection of textile waste across Europe.

An optimised collection system can support the implementation of local zero waste solutions. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, we have identified key success factors, including adopting the collection method to the needs of citizens, mandating quality sorting for reuse, promoting local reuse, and setting up a good governance structure. The governance of the system should seek to integrate the local collection and reuse into the wider policy framework and link social policies with circular economy objectives.

Municipalities hold key levers to steer the system towards local reuse by requiring collectors to generate and report data as well as set performance indicators in line with the waste hierarchy. Finally, the system must anticipate the introduction of the EU-wide introduction of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for textiles, which is currently being negotiated at the EU level and is likely to become mandatory in all Member States after 2027.

Available in English.

100% greenwash? Green claims on PET beverage bottles in Europe

In this report prepared by Eunomia Research & Consulting for ClientEarth, ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards, and Zero Waste Europe, we explore the current state of PET-based bottle recycling in Europe, as well as its potential for improvement, alongside analysis of common claims made to consumers on bottle labels relating to recycling. Such claims can give an impression of ‘plastic bottle circularity’ that does not reflect reality.

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

Joint letter – NGOs and industry call on the Waste Framework Directive revision

In this joint letter, civil society and industry organisations would like to express their support for a limited expansion of the current scope of the proposal to revise the Waste Framework Directive (WFD).

While a comprehensive revision of the WFD should be envisaged in the future, the current revision should address urgent issues related to incineration and landfilling of municipal waste and introduce targets for the collection and recycling of waste oils. This is crucial to deliver on the Green Deal commitments and speed up the transition towards a circular economy.

Available in English.

The Colombian Law 2232 on the gradual reduction of the production and consumption of single-use plastic products

In 2022, Colombia took further steps to strengthen the implementation of its National Plan for Sustainable Single-Use Plastics Management. The country has set the goal of making all single-use plastics reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2030.

As part of our activities for the 2023 European Week of Waste Reduction, this factsheet analyses Colombia’s Law 2232 on the gradual reduction of the production and consumption of single-use plastic products. The new law bans 14 specific types of plastic products such as plastic bags and straws, as well as packaging containers used for the retail sale of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Available in English.

Estonia’s updated Packaging Act: a leading example of how to embed reuse nationally

In February 2023, as part of the need to transpose the EU’s Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD), the Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) passed the Waste Act, Packaging Act and Tobacco Act Amendment Act. The law came into effect on 1 May 2023, with the exception of rules agreed in the SUPD that will apply later or require a transition period.

As part of our activities for the 2023 European Week of Waste Reduction, this factsheet lays out Estonia’s measures to implement the SUPD nationally – from binding actions for packaging companies to mandatory reuse items in public events.

Available in English.

Prevention and reuse – the only solution to record levels of packaging waste

Levels of packaging waste in Europe are at an all-time high. Over the last decade, its growth outpaced the economy, rising faster than the volume of traded goods. In this regard, the EU Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) offers a necessary pathway to reverse the trend of an ever more material and carbon intensive packaging sector, while creating real economic opportunities for truly circular businesses.

The Rethink Plastic alliance, the European Environmental Bureau, and Zero Waste Europe created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to help distinguishing packaging myths from packaging facts, and to help push for reuse targets.

Available in English.

Joint statement on Extended Producer Responsibility for Textiles

In this joint statement, eleven NGOs and progressive business associations call for action to make the EU-wide Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for textiles, as proposed under the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, a success. The measure must not only ensure sound waste management but also tackle the surge of textile waste in Europe at its source.

Available in English

Enough is enough: The case for a moratorium on incineration

This report by Zero Waste Europe highlights a critical concern surrounding the surplus waste incineration capacities in the European Union. This comprehensive study reveals a troubling pattern of annual growth in waste incineration capacity, with a surplus reaching 60 million tonnes in 2020 and the potential to soar to a staggering 220 million tonnes by 2023. The report underscores the urgent need for EU-wide measures and recommends a reevaluation of incineration’s position in the waste hierarchy, potentially reclassifying it as a disposal operation, to foster more sustainable waste management practices throughout the region.

Executive summary available in English, Italian, and Bulgarian.

Full report available in English.

Disposable paper-based food packaging – the false solution to the packaging waste crisis

A new report by the Rethink Plastic alliance, the European Environmental Bureau, Zero Waste Europe, Fern, and the Environmental Paper Network reveals the environmental harm caused by replacing single-use plastic with single-use paper packaging. The report clearly shows the need to move away from ever-polluting single-use packaging and towards well-designed reuse systems. The NGO coalition calls on the EU to seize the opportunity the Packaging and Packaging Waste regulation offers, and implement the necessary changes.

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.

A Zero Waste Vision for Fashion – Chapter 1: All We Need Is Less

Without a shift to sufficiency in the fashion sector, the industry is on track to exceed planetary boundaries.

In this paper, ZWE outlines a list of entry points for the transition towards sufficiency and urges governments to take proactive steps to adopt best practices. More precisely, the paper suggests a legal framework banning the destruction of unsold goods, setting a target for textile waste reduction and resource use and transforming EU waste legislation into a ‘Resource Framework Directive’ in line with a 1.5-degree target.

The paper underlines that governments should not rely on so-called consumer behaviour ‘nudges’ to cut down on fashion consumption and must address the cause of the current waste crisis: the fast fashion business model that relies on selling large volumes of trendy items. The textile sector’s transformation is a critical milestone, yet it’s only part of a broader economic shift toward sufficiency, well-being, and resilience within planetary boundaries.

This paper serves as the inaugural chapter in a two-part series exploring fashion and textiles along the entire value chain. The subsequent chapter will delve into circularity, covering optimal design, use, reuse, recycling, and end-of-life treatment of garments.

Executive Summary available in English, Italian, and Croatian.

Full paper available in English.