Category Single-use plastics

Single-use plastics are prone to littering and come at a high environmental cost. Despite this, many plastic products, from condiment sachets to lightweight plastic bags, are designed to be used for a short period of time (from minutes or even seconds) and then thrown away. 

Even when they are collected in waste management systems, most plastics are still landfilled and incinerated . According to the UN, the cost of plastic waste externalities, together with the costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production, is estimated at USD 40 billion annually or around EUR 34.5 billion.

Zero Waste Europe commits to influence European policy in order to put a limit to this wasteful practice.

Nominated products

233 votes

Plastic straws

Straws have become the symbol of items that will be used for only a few seconds before being thrown away. When they become litter, straws pose a serious hazard to marine life. With bans on single-use plastic straws likely to be introduced across Europe, they have become synonymous with poor product design.  


Join the movement asking businesses and decision makers to stop sucking. Young people have been a real inspiration across Europe, taking steps towards changing the habits in many cities. In Brussels, What About Waste was created by three women in their early twenties with a simple mission: convince restaurants, bars and cafés in Brussels to give up single-use plastic straws. The list of businesses they have converted continues to grow.

335 votes


One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. This will increase by 20% by 2021. Although plastic bottles are recyclable, fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling, and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead, most plastic bottles end up in landfill or in the ocean.


Reusable bottles are already easily available and increasingly used.


However, refill stations for water are not always available. Join the Refill movement, which has succeeded in getting decision makers to install refill fountains in cities such as Bristol, and encourage your local authority to do the same.

309 votes

Coffee cups

Single-use coffee cups are notoriously hard to recycle, chiefly because the cardboard is attached to a polyethylene liner which is difficult to separate. Reusable alternatives are readily available but coffee shops are slow to adopt them as an option. This is why single-use coffee cups for hot drinks on the go remain very popular, with countries like the UK using 2.5 billion single-use cups every year.


Join the reusable revolution! All across Europe, reusable cups are increasingly available to allow a fully sustainable takeaway coffee experience. From companies offering reusable cups (such as CupClub in London) to citizens taking their own cup everywhere they go, there are plenty of ways to go single-use cup free.

 In Germany alone, 2.8 billion disposable coffee cups are consumed every year. This motivated the creation of the Freiburg coffee cup, which can be found in cafes and bakeries across the city. Consumers simply give EUR 1 as a deposit, which is refunded when the cup is returned to any participating cafe. Read the story of the Freiburg Cup here.