Zero Waste Cities - Europe

Cities all over the globe have been joining the Zero Waste movement regardless of their starting point, economy, size, or any other factor.

Diana Butron

The Zero Waste International Alliance uses the following definition: 
"Zero waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.” [1]
In WtERT, we believe - with all due respect for waste prevention measures - that it is urgently necessary to thermally recycle the remaining, non-recycled waste. Sustainable waste management without modern waste incineration with energy utilization is inconceivable. Landfills for untreated waste are already banned in most European countries. 
Following is the selection of  4 European cities with a particular story linked to the zero-waste practice.
Milan, Italy
In 2011, Milan’s separate waste collection rate was stuck at around 35%, collecting 28 kg of food per inhabitant. The city then implemented a separation scheme to collect biowaste separately and recycle it.
Milan is one of the best examples when it comes to separation of waste in big cities. The biowaste collected went from 28kg to 95 kg collected per inhabitant between 2011 and 2015.  In 2019, the waste collected per inhabitant reached 110 kg of food compared to the average of European Union inhabitant of 18.84 kg. In 2020 the overall separate collection rate reached 62.6%. These results save around 9,000 tons of CO2 per year.[2]
The residual waste is handled by the thermal recycling plant of Milan.
Newport, United Kingdom
In 1999, Wales landfilled 97% of their waste, charging around 11.5 Euros per tonne. This same year, the enactment of the EU’s Landfill Directive took effect. Given the high dependency on landfill the UK got a 4-year derogation to achieve the EU Landfill Directive, which included a target of reducing organic waste sent to landfill to 35% of 1995 levels. A few initiatives have taken place since then:
Following the EU’s Landfill Directive, the UK installed a Landfill Tax of 8 Euros per tonne the increased slightly year by year.
Since 1997 Wastesavers’ kerbside separate collection system began with the collection to approximately 5000 houses.
In 2000 the Cleanstream – A Resource Recovery System for Wales, was written. This strategy system fed into the design of the 2002 and 2010 strategies. The Cleanstream strategy is based in 10 principles that contribute to the separate collection waste system, which includes separate collection vehicles with separate sections for every type of waste collected from kerbside.
‘Wise About Waste’, Wales’s first Waste Strategy was published in 2002.
In 2004, a 55-litre box for plastic was added in addition to the one initially provided for all recyclables.
In 2010, Wales adopted an updated national strategy called "Towards Zero Waste”. This strategy set the following recycling targets: 58% by 2015/16, 64% by 2019/20, and 70% by 2025.
Newport collection system has resulted in increasing recycling rates from 48% in 2012/13 to 61% in 2019 and up to 66% in 2020. [3]
 "All household residual waste collected is sent to Cardiff’s Energy from Waste facility as part of the inter authority contract Project Gwyrdd” [4]
Munich, Germany
In 2000, the Waste Management Corporation Munich (AWM) opened its first second-hand store. In 2016, the second second-hand shop was opened, named "Halle 2”. The goods sold there are collected from 12 recycling centers and then repaired to extend their lifespan. In 2017, Halle 2 won the Eurocities Cooperation Award; it prevents around 1,000 tonnes of waste each year.
Although the population of the city has grown from 1.2 million in 2000 to 1.5 million inhabitants in 2020, the volume of waste has not increased at the same rate. In 2018, AMW reported the city’s recycling rate to be 54.5%.
The 2nd of July 2020 the City Council passed the "Circular Munich – Circular Economy for a sustainable Munich” resolution. This resolution contains ideas from previous proposals and reports on how Munich can develop its zero waste concept. [5]
The residual waste is handled by the thermal recycling plant of Munich.
Sălacea, Romania
In three months, Sălacea located in the north-west of Romania, went from no recycling to 40% and the population reduced their overall waste generation by 55%.
Their journey started in 2018 when the authorities set some zero waste goals for 2020 which included: 50% drop in waste generation; sorting 100% of their waste; repair, reuse and recycle 90% of products; and close to 0% landfilling.
A crucial part in achieving the goals was the complete transformation of the sorting and separate collection systems. The bins and containers were replaced with door-to-door collection systems of 5 different streams including biowaste.
The citizen engagement went from 8.4% to 97%; separate collection of waste rose from 1% to 66%; and the waste going to landfill dropped from 98% to 55%. [6]

[1]    Zero Waste International Alliance, "Zero Waste Definition,” 12/20/2018,
[2]    Pierre Condamine, "The Story of Milan: Successfully collecting food waste for over 1.4 million inhabitants,”
[3]    Jack McQuibban and Mal Williams, "The Story of Newport: The city of Newport, Wales, shows that when separate collection systems prioritise quality over just quantity, world-leading results can be achieved whilst simultaneously reducing costs for the citizens.,”
[4]    Newport City Council, "NEWPORT’S WASTE STRATEGY 2019-2025,”
[5]    Jack McQuibban, "The Story of Munich: The city committed to go beyond recycling by developing a zero waste strategy focused on reuse and repair.,”
[6]    Elena Rastei and Jack McQuibban, "The Story of Sălacea: The small county of Sălacea in Romania tells a emarkable Zero Waste success story, establishing itself as a best practice that can be replicated in rural communities across Romania.,”