The packaging free shops market is on the rise, now it’s time for policy measures to support it

Zero Waste Europe releases the first ever European study on the current state of play and potential growth for the packaging free shops market.

As statistics show, every European inhabitant produces 173 kg of packaging waste every year (1). The only way to address this problem is with waste prevention measures that stop packaging waste from being produced in the first place, alongside measures to support business models that are waste-free by design, like packaging free and reusable systems.

The packaging free shops market is on the rise, now it’s time for policy measures to support it

That’s why Zero Waste Europe, in collaboration with Réseau Vrac, commissioned a study to Eunomia, to understand the state of art of the packaging free world as it stands today.

Moving the EU single market away from disposable packaging and towards waste prevention and reuse, is a clear objective of the European Commission, as outlined in the current packaging and waste directives (2), as well as expressed in the Communication on the European Green Deal (3) and the new Circular Economy Action Plan (4). Moreover, in the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy (5), the EC asserted that “by 2030, all plastics packaging placed on the EU market is reusable or easily recycled”.

Nevertheless, the current EU market is flooded with single-use packaging which ends up being landfilled or incinerated with great environmental and economic impacts.

In order to achieve the EU objectives and move towards a real circular and waste-free economy, the European Commission should adopt a set of robust measures to support upstream solutions, including expanding the costs covered by EPR schemes and introducing incentives for packaging free and reusable business models to overcome barriers to entry.

“Efforts to move away from disposable products and reduce packaging waste generation will only happen if the biggest barriers for waste prevention and reuse are addressed. Making packaging-free products and reusable systems mainstream will require the creation of a level playing field with disposable packaging, while today the latter fails to fully internalise the costs”. Commented Larissa Copello, Consumption and Production Campaigner, Zero Waste Europe

The full report, available upon request, was released in collaboration with Réseau Vrac and the Zero Waste Europe network and conducted by Eunomia Research and Consulting. It comes with a free Executive Summary and an accompanying Policy Briefing from Zero Waste Europe.


1 Eurostat 2017. 2 Notably articles 4 and 5 of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD), respectively. 3 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions (2019). The European Green Deal. Brussels, COM(2019) 640 final, Brussels, 11 December 2019. Available at: 4 Circular Economy Action Plan for a cleaner and competitive Europe. Available at: 5 A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Available at:

Zero Waste Europe Zero Waste Europe is the European network of communities, local leaders, businesses, experts, and change agents working towards the same vision: phasing out waste from our society. We empower communities to redesign their relationship with resources, to adopt smarter lifestyles and sustainable consumption patterns, and to think circular.

Réseau Vrac Réseau Vrac is the only professional organisation dedicated to the bulk industry – sale of products to consumers without packaging – in France and worldwide. Since its creation in 2016, Réseau Vrac has supported the development of this new market and promoted this means of consumption to tackle food and packaging waste generated by pre-packaged goods. Réseau Vrac represents and federates more than 1300 professionals in the sector: suppliers, shops owners and project holders in France and worldwide.

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