Zero Waste Strategy

What is it?

In general, the zero waste philosophy is based on the challenge of progressively reducing the generation of waste until everything is reintroduced into the production cycle or natural systems. Exchange, reuse, second-hand markets and making good use of left-over food, for example, are actions geared towards prevention and reduction at source; the way to make progress in minimising the problem of waste.

The most recent strategies also include the idea of the circular economy, which concerns the whole life cycle of products, from their design to their use and recovery, based on the idea that they are always reusable resources. In the context of the circular economy, the implementation of a deposit and refund system is one of the measures that can make the biggest contributions to reducing waste.

The Zero-Waste Strategy in Barcelona

Barcelona shares the ideas and challenges of the zero waste philosophy, as most of the actions it includes have been implemented by the City Council in recent years, with the active participation of municipal organisations, bodies and companies.

The City Council is committed to continuing to foster policies aimed at making progress in the main challenge that has guided municipal actions in recent years: reducing the generation of municipal waste, by fostering selective collection, prevention, recovery and reuse of raw materials and resources.

In order to achieve this aim, the City Council has set itself the following objectives:

  • Progressing towards a circular economy which, at a local level, fosters innovation to prolong the life cycle of materials and foments new production systems.
  • Promoting and achieving a new consumer culture with a low-waste lifestyle.
  • Increasing the amount of selective waste collection and the recovery and reuse of resources, quantifying commitments.
  • Implementing a product-management model and systems that favour the reduction and prevention of waste.
  • Improving information and communication on the destination of waste products, the costs, benefits and social-environmental impacts involved.
  • Strengthening the cooperation and links between all the city's social and economic players, in order to encourage a favourable attitude towards the new consumer culture.
  • Achieving a socio-political consensus in order to ensure the application and continuity of the new management models.


  • Disassociating waste generation from economic activities, reducing it to below 1.20 kg/inhabitant/day.
  • Achieving the figure of 60% recycling of urban waste.
  • Achieving the collection of a high-quality organic fraction, containing a maximum of 8% improper waste by weight.


In tune with these challenges, Barcelona City Council has decided on 10 priority areas of action, which also provide continuity to the work carried out in recent years, in terms of increasing selective collection, promoting prevention and recovering resources that have not reached the end of their useful life.

1. Waste prevention and preparation for reuse.
2. Simpler collection models and systems that are more integrated and adapted to the various urban and socio-economic environments.
3. Making the organic fraction the central focus of waste management.
4. Waste management and prevention in the business, commercial and service sectors.
5. A Green Point network offering more services adapted to all groups of residents.
6. Design, production and consumption criteria that are innovative and favourable to the circular economy.
7. Regulations and taxes that provide incentives for prevention, recovery and reuse, with the internalisation of collection and treatment costs.
8. Communication and education to foster the new culture of consumption, prevention and selective collection, in order to stimulate the general public's involvement.
9. Participation networks with social and civil society organisations that are in favour of waste prevention and reuse.
10. Municipal exemplariness regarding prevention, selective collection, reuse and recovery of resources.

When designing an action plan for progressing towards the established objectives, it is necessary to identify both the possible barriers and the opportunities that may either impede or further the aim of reducing waste generation and recovering the maximum amount of resources that have not reached the end of their useful lives.

In any event, the figures for selective collection that have already been attained (around 38% on average) and which seem to have stagnated in recent years, along with the difficulties in creating cooperation with many economic sectors and making progress in prevention and reduction at source, make it clear that there are fiscal, regulatory, sociological and economic conditioning factors and that action must be taken to overcome certain areas of resistance and passivity.

These conditioning factors can be summarised as follows:

  • The regulatory and fiscal context (municipal and supramunicipal).
  • The general public's consumer habits.
  • The general public's perception of reusing things.
  • The design and production criteria of companies.  
  • The companies' perception of prevention.

The identification and use of opportunities must also be compatible with continuing to work on lines of action promoted in recent years, which have demonstrated their effectiveness in disseminating the new consumer culture and have also achieved solid results in terms of reducing waste.


As part of this zero waste strategy, a set of 20 proposed actions has been decided. In most cases, they give continuity to actions that Barcelona City Council has promoted in recent years, some of which include the active participation of city organisations, institutions and associations.

1. Seminars for more sustainable offices
2. Shops selling unpacked products featuring on the Sustainable Barcelona Map
3. Waste prevention for local commercial establishments
4. Internal green purchasing at the City Council
5. Greener municipal markets
6. Fairs and congresses with lower waste generation
7. Waste prevention in new business sectors
8. Separating the organic fraction in schools
9. Selective collection in commerce
10. Deposit-refund for packaging
11. Simpler collection models for city residents
12. Systems for reducing the presence of improper waste in the organic fraction
13. Project Renova
14. Repaired, better than new
15. Projects for making good use of food
16. Waste-prevention projects in schools
17. Community and home composting
18. Events that generate less waste
19. Tax incentives for selective separation
20. Environmental education at Green Points

See the complete Zero Waste Strategy document, November 2016 (PDF)