As recently outlined in the first ever State of Zero Waste Municipalities Report, Zero Waste Europe and its member organisations have been successfully working for over 10 years at the local level, supporting the adoption of community-centred zero waste models throughout Europe.
During this time, a huge amount of evidence and knowledge has been gathered (and learnt) about what is required to create and implement effective zero waste city programmes. In the past 5 years, the role of the Zero Waste Cities programme has been to collect this knowledge and to disseminate them across Europe to encourage further zero waste commitments and strategies to be enacted.
Our vision has been and remains to accelerate the transition towards zero waste at the city level, with the implementation of the latest EU legislation and zero waste strategies based on citizen-centered models. Our desired end result is a substantial decrease in waste generation, with zero waste cities showcasing a model for achieving broader societal change to tackle systemic environmental and social inequalities.
Today, we have nearly 400 municipalities from 9 different European countries within our programme. They have committed to develop and implement a zero waste strategy and are currently working to reduce their waste. We are, however, witnessing a bigger movement. Recognition of the benefits of zero waste is increasing and legislative frameworks are being put in place to support this transition. Subsequently, interest and appetite for adopting local zero waste strategies is excitingly at an unprecedented level…
Recognising this need for a more robust and formal mechanism for guiding European municipalities towards zero waste, the Mission Zero Academy (MiZA) has been established. MiZA will host the world’s first Zero Waste Cities Certification.
The Zero Waste Cities Certification
Within Europe today, the legislative framework has shifted – and continues to do so – towards facilitating the transition to zero waste, through the introduction of statutory recycling and reuse targets in some cases. Governments are increasingly recognizing that the status quo of waste management is no longer sustainable. Yet, there remains a gap in the level of understanding and knowledge on how to adopt zero waste strategies at the local level.
The Zero Waste Cities Certification is the next step in accelerating Europe’s journey to zero waste.
For any European municipality wishing to reduce the volume of waste it generates, the Certification provides a robust framework that can become a municipal to-do list for a zero waste strategy.
Not only has the model been proven to reduce waste, but through adopting the policies within the Certification, municipalities can:
- Reduce their expenditure on waste management,
- Reduce the volume of GhG emissions they emit,
- Create more local jobs in sustainable sectors, and
- Have a tool to connect more with the local community.
The newly established Mission Zero Academy will host and coordinate the Certification, along with several other resources and services designed specifically to help guide organisations and municipalities on their journey to zero waste.
This is how a Certification becomes more than just a certificate.
Each municipality who joins the Certification will be assigned their own zero waste mentor, who will help guide the work to ensure that impactful yet feasible strategies are designed and implemented. The mentors are trained regularly by MiZA and can connect the municipalities to the relevant resources and ensure they are heading in the right direction.
What will be the role of the Zero Waste Cities programme now?
The Zero Waste Cities programme by Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) will continue to mentor and support cities that have committed to implement local zero waste strategies. Working with ZWE members, MiZA, and other partners in the field of zero waste, the programme will continue to use our expertise from guiding and supporting zero waste cities over the past decade to help accelerate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy, one community at a time.
The Zero Waste Cities programme will increase our focus and efforts on building an active network of zero waste experts across Europe. We will provide more support and training for local actors who can become the go-to players for municipalities and waste professionals looking for ideas and guidance on how to implement zero waste within their own communities.
Key to our theory of change is the need to increase the volume and accessibility of zero waste expertise. Our role has and will continue to be to capture and disseminate best practice examples, as well as specific guidance on the various components of local zero waste strategies. Therefore, we will continue to create free-to-access resources and tools that can be used at the local level to help the implementation of zero waste strategies. These will continue to be hosted on the Zero Waste Cities website under the new ‘Tools’ section.
Given the increasing waste generation levels on average across Europe, it is clear that the need for Zero Waste Cities today is more pressing and urgent than ever. The vision of the brand new Certification is that it will not only celebrate Europe’s best performing municipalities, but it will also provide a robust framework to support and guide a new wave of European municipalities towards zero waste. Together with the Zero Waste Cities programme, both Zero Waste Europe and the Mission Zero Academy will supplement and complement each other as we accelerate Europe’s transition towards a circular future.
There is no time to waste.