Incineration in the EU emission trading system: a set of suggestions for its inclusion

This report developed by Equnimator urges for the immediate and comprehensive inclusion of municipal waste incineration in the EU’s emission trading system (ETS). It emphasises the critical need to include both electricity and heat incineration, along with biogenic CO2, in the ETS. This move is seen as essential for the EU to meet its climate goals and ensure that all sectors contribute fairly to emission reductions.

The report follows the European Parliament’s 2022 ETS reforms, which opened the possibility of including municipal waste incineration within its scope. Despite this, as of January 2024, these facilities are only required to monitor, report, and verify their emissions without the need to surrender allowances. Zero Waste Europe calls for the European Commission to study the feasibility of full inclusion by July 2026, with a potential implementation by 2028.

Available in English.

PVC Problem Very Clear

Chemical experts have told the EU that it must ban polyvinyl chloride (PVC) if it wants to comply with its own laws.

The move by ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Zero Waste Europe, comes after the three NGOs analysed a 2023 report by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) concerning PVC and the danger this plastic and its additives pose.

Used in everything from flooring and pipes to packaging and toys, PVC is one of the world’s most produced and widely used types of plastic. But it is associated with a variety of environmental and health problems, including cancer, reproductive impairment and birth defects. Like PFAS, tiny particles of PVC end up in the environment and remain present for long periods of time.

Available in English.

A Zero Waste Vision for Textiles – Chapter 2: Circular and toxic-free material flows

This second chapter of our two-part series on textiles sketches out what a truly circular and toxic-free system for textiles looks like. The report investigates the current barriers to circularity, identifies solutions, and makes recommendations for policy measures in the EU.

The European textile sector, characterised by its staggering waste generation and significant environmental impact, is at a crossroads and requires immediate action to transition towards the circular economy. Key challenges include the environmental impact of production and health risks for consumers posed by the use of harmful chemical substances, fossil fuel-based synthetic fibres, and the release of microplastics. Furthermore, the low rates of local reuse, repair, and upcycling of textiles as well as the insufficient separate collection capacity hamper circularity.

Another significant obstacle is the insufficiency capacity for recycling in Europe; operations are often not economically viable due to a lack of design for recycling, investments in technologies for closed-loop recycling, but also the slow uptake of recycled content. Finally, the negative social and environmental impacts of exported second-hand textiles pose a huge challenge to regulators.

In the first chapter of this two-part series, ‘A Zero Waste Vision for Fashion – Chapter 1: All We Need Is Less’, we outlined that without a shift to sufficiency in the fashion sector, the industry is on track to exceed several planetary boundaries.

Executive Summary available in English.

Full paper available in English. 

Open letter – “Yes to an EU legislation on Sustainable Resource Management”

Zero Waste Europe joined over 100 organisations in an open letter calling for EU legislation on Sustainable Resource Management. Signed by various NGOs, academics, think tanks, trade unions, and industries, this letter advocates that legislation on Sustainable Resource Management is crucial to address the challenges of global crises, and to ensure that the EU economy operates within planetary boundaries.

Available in English.

Managing materials for 1.5°C

Now is the time to build an effective EU policy framework for managing materials – one that will accelerate Europe’s transition to a circular economy, support a strong industrial strategy, and make it easier to do business in Europe.

This joint report by Eunomia Research & Consulting, Handelens Miljøford, Minderoo Foundation, TOMRA, and Zero Waste Europe sets out the components of a regulatory framework that will:

– Harness the power of the Single Market and sustain its unity, enabling a fair and competitive system for all: business, industry, and consumers.

– Minimise administrative burdens for businesses operating in the EU.

– Support a fit-for-the-future industrial strategy that keeps Europe internationally competitive.

– Safeguard the bloc’s material security amid geopolitical uncertainties and price volatility.

– Consolidate Europe’s global leadership in circular economy and digital product policy.

Available in English.

We had a Green Deal, now Europe needs a Health Deal

For too long in the EU, regulators have sidestepped the issue of dealing with the health impacts of chemical exposure. Our economies are still set up in such a way as to prioritise efficiency and convenience, when we urgently need to strive for a set-up that prioritises sufficiency, wellbeing, and resilience. Member State governments and Members of the European Parliament have the opportunity to lead truly transformative change, responsibly shaping legislation around products and waste to prioritise health outcomes for citizens, instead of sweeping them under the rug. This is Zero Waste Europe’s manifesto for a health deal for Europe – which goes beyond the Green Deal to confront hidden dangers in products and ensure a safer, healthier continent.

Available in English.

The ultimate 5-step, one-pot, cost-effective, no-fuss recipe to save food in the EU – Infographic

Over 58 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU, with losses happening across the entire supply chain – a waste stream that not only causes between 8-10% of global GHG emissions, but also could be put to much better use on people’s plates.

This infographic makes a compelling case for halving food waste in the EU by 2030, presented as a delicious legislative (and culinary) recipe!

Available in English.

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, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Slovenian, German, Montenegrin, and Croatian.

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 and Croatian.

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.