The True Toxic Toll / Netherlands – Biomonitoring research on persistent organic pollutants in the environment of the REC Waste Incinerator in Harlingen

The “True Toxic Toll” campaign is back with the most recent findings on the harmful impact of incinerator emissions on human health and the environment.

The latest research conducted by ToxicoWatch on behalf of Zero Waste Europe analysed the persistent organic pollutants in the environment surrounding the REC Waste Incinerator in Harlingen, the Netherlands. This time, we analysed backyard chicken eggs; fruit and vegetables such as apples, cauliflower, and kale; and vegetation from the surrounding villages and settlements.

Among other findings, the results showed that:
– High levels of dioxins were found in the eggs of backyard chickens sampled within a 3 km radius of the waste incinerator.
– The PFOS level in eggs sampled from Wijnaldum, located 2 km from the incinerator, largely exceeds the limit imposed by EU regulations.
– There are high levels of aluminium in eggshells sampled from Wijnaldum.

These findings raise concerns about the region’s environmental health and the health of those living near the incinerator.

Available in English and Dutch.

The True Toxic Toll / Slovakia – Biomonitoring research on persistent organic pollutants in the environmental surrounding the cement plant in Turňa nad Bodvou

The “True Toxic Toll” campaign is back with the most recent findings on the harmful impact of incinerator emissions on human health and the environment.

The latest research conducted by ToxicoWatch on behalf of Zero Waste Europe analysed the persistent organic pollutants in the environment surrounding a cement kiln in Turňa nad Bodvou, Slovakia. This time, we analysed fruit such as apples, figs, and grapes; backyard chicken eggs; vegetation; and dust, water, and sediments from the surrounding villages.

The results showed that:
– PFAs were detected in grapes and fig leaves; and PAH levels were found in apples and grapes;
– There were concentrations of dioxins, PAH, and PFAS in eggs, pine needles, and mosses;
– Eggs from backyard chickens in three locations exceeded the EU limit for dioxins.
– Elevated levels of PAH were found in roof dust.

These findings raise concerns about the region’s environmental health and the health of those living near the incinerator.

Available in English and Slovak.

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.

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.

Improved and homogenised datasets on municipal bio-waste management in the EU

Released for public dissemination by the LIFE BIOBEST project, this report consists of a homogenised dataset on municipal bio-waste management.

Originating from an investigation into the current status of data collection and reporting in the European Union, the publication contains data on basic information and boundary conditions for bio-waste collection and treatment for nearly all 27 EU Member States, as well as a detailed dataset exploring the collection per capita of food waste and garden waste at the municipal level for Italy, Denmark, and Catalonia.

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.

Understanding the costs: a brief overview of the economic costs related to waste infrastructure across Europe

In the current landscape of European municipalities, the shift towards zero waste is undeniably grounded in environmental concerns. The environmental advantages of embracing a zero waste approach are evident, but from an economic perspective, the municipal standpoint becomes somewhat less clear.

This report serves as an introductory guide for those seeking a comprehensive understanding of the costs and financing involved in establishing and implementing essential infrastructure elements crucial to a local zero waste strategy. The intention is to offer a broad overview from diverse European contexts, presenting data from a representative sample of European scenarios (Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Lithuania and Spain), allowing readers to explore various examples of costs linked to systems aimed at enhancing local waste management.

Leaky loop “recycling”: A technical correction on the quality of pyrolysis oil made from plastic waste

This report examines the widely promoted pyrolysis method in plastic waste management, shedding light on its inherent limitations. Pyrolysis has been hailed as a solution by industry, but this study reveals significant drawbacks. Incompatibility with different plastic types, low oil yield, and contamination issues mean that the resulting pyrolysis oil must be heavily diluted with petroleum-based mixtures, in some cases at a ratio of over 40:1. To be used in recycled plastic production, the oil requires energy-intensive purification steps or substantial dilution with virgin petroleum naphtha, both of which are not aligned with the objectives of the EU Green Deal.

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.

Reimagining the Waste Framework Directive

The current revision of the Waste Framework Directive, which has guided EU policy in this area since 1975, offers an opportunity to design a coherent and consistent policy framework for a circular economy.

This white paper by Eunomia, TOMRA, Minderoo Foundation, Handelens Miljøfond, and Zero Waste Europe presents a vision for 2040, describing the way in which society will use materials and products in an economy that is well on its way to circularity. This sets the stage for the development of a detailed policy blueprint, supported by research and stakeholder engagement, for the steps needed to realise the vision.

Available in English

Mixed Waste Sorting to meet the EU’s Circular Economy Objectives

This report and policy briefing studied whether, and to what extent, the EU recycling targets can be met through improved recyclability of packaging and increased separate collections of municipal waste—and, if not, what measures could be taken to achieve them.

It has examined the role mixed waste sorting (MWS) could play in three EU countries with high recycling performance – Germany, Belgium, and Sweden. The conclusion was concluded that, in addition to separate collection and improved recyclability of plastic packaging, a full roll-out of effective MWS is necessary to ensure that recycling targets are consistently met and to ensure progress towards the EU’s wider carbon emissions reduction goals.

Available in English.

Debunking Efficient Recovery: The Performance of EU Incineration Facilities

This report estimates efficiencies of generation of energy from waste for Member States which incinerate a significant share of the waste incinerated across the EU. It highlights that the energy efficiency  of EU incinerators are appallingly low and the distinction between recovery (R1) and disposal (D10) incininerators is arbitrary, and should therefore be dropped from the EU Waste Directive.

Full report available in English. Executive summaries are available in English and Hungarian.


The True Toxic Toll: Biomonitoring research on dioxins (PCDD/F and DL-PCB), PFAS and PAH 2022

Building on the 2021 results, Zero Waste Europe coordinated again a biomonitoring research on incinerator emissions across Europe, together with ToxicoWatch, Hnuti Duha, Ziedine Ekonomika, and Ecologists en Accion Spain.
The results found again high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the vicinity of incinerators.

Available in English. 

Executive Summaries are available in English, Lithuanian and Czech.


Beyond circular fashion – a new business model for the fashion industry

In the context of the EU Textiles Strategy, Zero Waste Europe’s “Beyond circular fashion” report shows how existing approaches and initiatives to make fashion fair and sustainable, while an important step forward, are insufficient in addressing harmful business models that rely on overproduction and overconsumption.

To comply with planetary boundaries, the report identifies 4 essential criteria that must be met simultaneously to qualify a fashion business as zero waste.

Executive summary available in English, French, and Croatian.

Full report in English.

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.

Is net zero enough for the materials sector?

When considering the urgency of reducing GHG emissions there is a possibility that, despite the aims of the net zero pathways, the cumulative carbon emissions budget will be exceeded. This is due to the risks associated with deploying unproven technologies in some sectors.

This report by Zero Waste Europe and Eunomia allocated a risk factor associated with each intervention and quantified how this influences the likelihood of overshooting the remaining carbon budget. It also attempted to determine whether the overshoot can be reduced by accelerating the adoption model deployed for technological interventions.

Report available in English. Executive Summary available in English, Croatian, and French.

Incineration: what’s the effect on gas consumption?

The war in Ukraine has led to major shifts in the EU’s energy markets. A combination of Russia’s weaponising of its energy supplies by reducing supply, particularly of gas, allied with a determination on the part of the majority of EU member states to stem the flow of energy-related revenue to Russia, has led to a significant increase in the price of gas in wholesale markets. The waste management industry has advanced its case as a potential contributor to a solution to the gas and climate crises.  It has claimed that incineration and co-incineration could be deployed more widely than is currently the case, with claimed benefits for climate change and fossil fuel consumption.

Written by Equanimator Ltd on behalf of Zero Waste Europe, this report disproves that notion, comprehensively showing that waste-to-energy only dispels 1.1% of the EU27 consumption of Russian gas.

Full report available in English. Executive Summary available in English, Croatian, Hungarian, and Polish.

Marrying safety with sustainability in food packaging – Briefing for businesses

‘Safety’ and ‘sustainability’ concepts are directly interlinked: in order for food packaging to be truly sustainable, it needs to be safe for both human and environmental health. Within this briefing we aim to provide businesses with a better understanding of the issues linked to hazardous chemicals in food contact materials and highlight the opportunity for businesses to adopt circular economy practices using non-toxic and reusable materials that protects human health.

Full report available in English. Executive summary available in English, French, Spanish, Dutch and German.