Products, Good Design, & Plastics

We promote the redesign of products to make them durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and toxic-free

If a product cannot be reused, repaired, disassembled, remanufactured, recycled or composted it should be redesigned or progressively phased out from the market.

 

The current throw-away linear economy is based on products that are designed deliberately to be non-repairable, very often toxic, and not compatible with a circular economy. For instance, plastic pollution caused by excessive single-use packaging, microbeads present in cosmetic products and microfibres coming from washing synthetic clothes are contaminating the environment and poisoning the food chain. Since it is impossible to clean all plastic out there the only possible option is to redesign materials, products and processes in order to stop plastic from entering the environment in the first place.

 

Good product design is a prerequisite to make zero waste a reality; it allows embodied energy to stay in the system for longer effectively preserving the value of materials and allowing for a circular economy that is resilient, creates local jobs and does not harm people.

 

Zero Waste Europe engages with citizens and municipalities to identify problematic design and mobilises designers, researchers, companies and policy-makers in order to find appropriate alternatives.

Projects to note

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People's Design Lab
A space for European citizens to come together and help change design.
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Plastic Bag Free Day
Taking one step closer to a plastic bag free world every 3rd of July.
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Environmenstrual Work
See our latest work on menstrual products, baby nappies and wet wipes with ReZero, Break Free From Plastic and Reloop.
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Food Contact Materials
Work to highlight the health impacts of toxic chemicals in food packaging.
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Plastic in the Spotlight
Looking at the impact of plastic on human health. Coming soon!
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Zero Waste Business Models
Coming soon!

Hungry for more?

Here are a few related posts...

Library for Consumption & Production

Library for Products, Good Design, & Plastics

Towards safe food contact materials in a toxic-free circular economy

We have the opportunity to reform EU legislation on chemicals in food packaging to make it safe and reusable. Our latest policy briefing outlines recommendations to ensure a toxic-free circular economy. 

Available in English

Unwanted toxic flame retardants preventing circularity and increasing fire toxicity

The Flame Retardant Free Furniture Alliance presents its latest position paper on unwanted toxic flame retardants preventing circularity and fire toxicity in light of the New Circular Economy Action Plan.

Available in English

Zero Waste Europe’s Feedback on the Farm to Fork Strategy: towards a food system free of chemicals, overpackaging and waste

The Farm to Fork Strategy presents a great opportunity to profoundly reshape our relation to food and design food waste, hazardous chemicals and overpackaging out of our food system. Addressing such issues specifically requires a holistic vision leading to coordinated actions all along the food supply chain. Read Zero Waste Europe’s feedback on the new Farm to Fork Strategy Roadmap.

Available in English

A Declaration of Concern and Call to Action regarding Plastics, Packaging, and Human Health

Declaration of Concern and call to action led by Zero Waste Europe, GAIA Asia-Pacific, GAIA US, and Upstream – signed by 160+ organisations worldwide demanding that lawmakers protect us from hazardous chemicals in food packaging.

Policy recommendations to make menstrual products, nappies and wet wipes circular

Policy briefing by Zero Waste Europe bringing together our previous two reports on (1) the environmental and economic impacts of single-use menstrual products, nappies and wet wipes and (2) existing measures and future policy recommendations to minimise their impact.

 

 

Existing measures & policy recommendations to minimise the impact of menstrual products, nappies & wet wipes

Report by ReZero and Zero Waste Europe. The report is a follow-up to our previous report on the environmental and economic impacts of single-use menstrual products, nappies and wet wipes and looks at existing measures and future policy recommendations to minimise their impact.

 

 

The Story of Too Good To Go

Zero Waste Europe releases its new Consumption & Production Case Study, which promotes zero waste business models: The Story of Too Good To Go, a fast growing company making the link between shops whose food is about to be wasted and consumers who love a good deal.

Available in English, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese and German.

Material substitution within the SUP Directive

Joint Policy Briefing signed by Zero Waste Europe and Reloop Platform to provide the European Commission with clear recommendations on the implementation phase of the Single Use Plastic Directive.

Available in English.

Zero Waste Europe response to the new Circular Economy Action Plan Consultation

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the European Commission’s commitment to developing its Circular Economy efforts as part of the European Green Deal and we are happy to submit our recommendations in line with our vision to create a zero waste Europe.  Read our response to the new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) Consultation.

Available in English.

Deposit Return Systems (DRS) Manifesto

We want Europe to move towards a Circular Zero Waste Economy that retains value by reusing materials, uses recycling as a last resort and ensures that no waste is leaked into the environment. Deposit Return Systems (DRS) have proven to be the most effective and sustainable way to make this happen. That is why we wrote, in partnership with other organisations, the DRS Manifesto: a summary of all the benefits Deposit Return Systems can bring and a list of demands to EU institutions and members states to preserve the value of materials and reduce leakage into the environment.

Avaiable in English

The Story of Unverpackt

The Story of Unverpackt is the sixth chapter of the Zero Waste Europe Consumption & Production Case Studies series aimed at promoting zero waste business models.

Since opening in February 2014, Germany’s first packaging-free store Unverpackt in Kiel, has been pursuing a drastic reduction of packaging waste while motivating customers to rethink their consumer behavior. More than 100 stores in Germany are already following this example, the zero waste retail movement has only just begun.

The environmental & economic costs of single-use menstrual products, baby nappies & wet wipes

Report by ReZero, Zero Waste Europe, ReLoop and Break Free From Plastic. The report details the environmental and economic impacts of single-use menstrual products, baby nappies, and wet wipes across the EU-28.

Smoke and mirrors: exposing the reality of carpet ‘recycling’ in the UK

Report based on research by Eunomia Consulting, UKWIN and the Changing Markets Foundation. Looking to expose the reality of  carpet ‘recycling’ in the UK  and beyond.

Available in English.

Safe fire safety for everyone: avoid toxic flame retardants in our furniture

The Alliance for Flame Retardant Free Furniture released a position paper calling on EU-wide action against the use of flame retardants in furniture and bedding. The paper also points out the importance for the EU institutions to tap into the potential of toxic-free safe fire safety in support of a circular economy.

Available in English.

The story of PHENIX: a recipe to effectively enforce food waste reduction targets

In 5 years, PHENIX saved 30.000 tonnes of food products and distributed 60 millions meals across France, proving that it is possible to prevent food waste and create new jobs while saving money.  

 

Available in English

 

 

Unfolding the Single-Use Plastics Directive

In May 2019 the EU formally approved a pioneer legislation to curb single-use plastics – and no, it is not just about banning straws. This paper presents an overview of the new Single-Use Plastics Directive, and our recommendations for an effective implementation at the national level.

Available in English

The story of RePack: a simple solution to the growing problem of e-commerce waste

How Zero Waste and online shopping work together?
RePack is a closed-loop system that can reduce e-commerce packaging by 96%
while providing the same consumer experience as the disposable one.

 

Product policy: repair instructions for a true circular economy

We want our products to be long-lasting, repairable, recyclable and toxic-free. Here are our recommendations to rethink EU product policy and improve product design with circularity in mind.

 

Available in English

 

The story of eReuse

Imagine expanding the life of electronic devices while incorporating blockchain traceability technology capable of creating 1 job for every 300 items reused. Now imagine ensuring a 95% recycling rate and transforming a cost for municipalities into revenue that stays in the community. This is not imagination, this is eReuse: a perfect example of how symbiosis between the digital agenda and waste management can create value, sustainability and jobs.

Available in: English. Other languages coming soon!

Carpet producers support mandatory action to make the sector go circular

Carpet manufacturers, industry associations and civil society join voices to make the carpet industry go circular.

Available in English

NGO recommendations for a sustainable EU bioeconomy

In 2012, the EU released the Communication, “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe”, which is now in the process of being updated. The bioeconomy is an increasing part of the environmental narrative as it includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries and the products provided by these sectors. NGOs, scientists and policy-makers are therefore raising questions about the true potential of a ‘bioeconomy’, as well as the risks and trade-offs, in the context of long-term climate goals.

Available in English

The story of FreiburgCup

In November 2016, Freiburg decided to stop the flood of disposable coffee cups. Less than two years later, Freiburg has proven how a mid-size city can push for alternatives to the throw-away society and define the political agenda.

Available in: English and French. Other languages coming soon!

Reusable & toxic-free menstrual products: making women’s lives better while fighting plastic pollution

Beyond representing a major source of plastic pollution, disposable menstrual products come at a high cost for women, in terms of both budget and health hazard.

Zero Waste Europe calls on policy makers to ensure that women have access to toxic-free, reusable alternatives.

Available in English.

The Story of Recircle

Recircle has arrived to transform take-away restaurants. In two years, more than 400 restaurants across Switzerland are already using Recircle’s 70,000 reusable meal boxes.

A winning solution that prevents waste and saves money to restaurants and cities.

Unwrapped: how throwaway plastic is failing to solve Europe’s food waste problem (and what we need to do instead)

Food waste and plastic waste are two major economic, environmental and social challenges facing Europe. The report shows how a rise in plastic food packaging is failing to reduce Europe’s growing food waste problem, and in some cases may even be fueling it.
Available in: English. 

Smartphone regulation – Open letter to president Juncker

Smartphone regulation – Open letter to President Juncker.

Available in English.

Circular economy opportunities for digital products

The joint policy paper by Zero Waste Europe, ECOS, EEB, IFIXIT and Rreuse complements Digital Europe’s publication “The Contribution of the Digital Industry in a Circular Economy” with additional perspectives, and challenge the digital industry’s conclusions with regard to policy options.

Available in English

Seizing the opportunity: using plastic only where it makes sense

The policy paper looks at existing alternatives to fast-moving and short-lived plastic applications and calls for the EU to introduce reduction targets for single-use plastics within the EU Strategy on Plastics in the Circular Economy.

Available in English

Extended Producer Responsibility: creating the frame for circular products

This position paper outlines that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), if used well, can be one of the cornerstones of the transition towards a circular economy. It is a tool that has the potential to provide economic incentives for producers to better design their products, while better implementing the polluter pays principle and penalizing non-circular products.

Redesigning Producer Responsibility: A new EPR is needed for a circular economy

A new study commissioned by Zero Waste Europe finding majority of product waste is not covered by current Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and calling for redesign in order to move towards a circular economy. This download contains the full report.