Category Toxic products

Did you know that many products contain harmful chemicals? 

Which do you consider the worst? Vote now, and Zero Waste Europe commits to influence European policy in order to put a limit to this wasteful practice.

Disclaimer: This contest does not represent a statement that all products comprised under this category (food contact material, menstrual products, and furniture), are toxic. These products have been chosen based on recent studies and reports published by some organisations about the concerns related to chemicals in materials contained in such products.

Nominated products

496 votes

Food contact material

Many chemicals are present in the materials that come into contact with food, such as packaging. These chemicals can easily leach or migrate into food, especially when exposed to high temperatures or when contact times are long. Once in our food, they enter our bodies.

Hazardous chemicals are used in all materials. For example, endocrine disruptors such as BPA are used to make certain plastics, as well as the internal coating of aluminium and metal cans and the lids of glass jars and bottles.

Certain hazardous chemicals are banned or restricted for product use yet are allowed for materials that are in contact with food. It is estimated that 58 chemicals recognised as “Substances of Very High Concern” are permitted in food contact materials. In addition, EU laws cover only five of the 17 different types of food contact materials, with paper and cardboard, for example, remaining unregulated.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) are of great concern, since they are linked to cancer, reproductive problems, diabetes, learning disorders and asthma, to name a few. A large number of NGOs have created the EDC-Free Europe coalition, which has put together a strategy on steps the EU should take to protect citizens from hormone-disrupting chemicals.

180 votes

Menstrual products

Every woman will have her period for up to 3,000 days, or the equivalent of 8.2 years. During that time, she will use an average of 12,000 pads, the equivalent of 150kgs, or enough to fill two mini-buses. On average, 90% of each of these women’s hygiene products are made of plastic. Single-use plastic menstrual products contain many chemicals, from glyphosate, BPA and BPS to endocrine-disrupting substances linked to illnesses like cancer, infertility and heart disease


Empowering women to manage their periods can curb plastic pollution and reduce chemical exposure. Join the Environmenstrual week of action, from 13 to 20 October and take #periodaction for a toxic-free reusable menstrual product.

65 votes

Flame retardants in furniture

Flame retardants, often found in the foam and textiles of furniture, are intended to stop fire from spreading. Scientific evidence, however, shows that their use is not linked to any meaningful improvement in fire safety. When we are exposed to flame retardants, they accumulate in our bodies and are linked to cancer, hormonal disruption, decreased fertility, neurological impairment and lower birth-weight, among others. They are currently found everywhere on the planet: they have reached the Arctic, entered our food and even breast milk. Flame retardant particles travel very quickly, through dust or, when burned, through toxic smoke. Reusing and recycling furniture containing flame retardants may expand the exposure of these chemicals, making a ban on their use the most effective solution.  


Zero Waste Europe is part of the Alliance for Flame Retardant-Free Furniture, a coalition of NGOs and industry, which is calling on the European Commission and Member State governments to harmonise furniture flammability requirements. It also calls on the European Chemicals Agency to speed up its work in banning flame retardants.