Project Facts

Austrian Society for Systems Engineering and Automation (SAT)

May 2009 - April 2014

30 partners from 11 countries

Budget: 9,5 Mio. €


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No. 226752.

Waste prevention has been assigned the highest priority under European waste management law. However, the initiatives which have been taken so far have not reduced the regular annual increase in total waste arising across Europe; we are still some way from achieving sustainable use of resources. With a rising level of prosperity in industrialized countries, an increasing number of products and services are being produced and consumed. This development is reflected in the amount of waste generated. According to Eurostat, the EU27 is annually generating about 4 billion tons of agricultural, domestic and industrial wastes.

The problem here is not only the quantity of waste but also the quality, i.e., the intrinsic hazardous nature of some types of waste, especially industrial waste. Industry today in general uses a wider range of materials and produces more complex products than in past decades. There has also been an overall increase in the quantity and variety of products and services and a continuous creation of new products (Commission of the European Community, 2003). 

Idea of ZeroWIN
The main idea of ZeroWIN is that waste prevention has to be seen from a holistic perspective to make it work efficiently and effectively. The plan to move society in the direction of sustainability must be based on an understanding of the constitutional principles of the functioning of the system usually referred to as the eco-sphere (e.g. thermodynamics; the biogeochemical cycles; the ecological interdependencies of species; the societal exchange with, and dependency on, the ecosphere). Operational approaches towards e.g. dematerializations and substitutions need to comply with the complementary, non-overlapping, conditions for social and ecological sustainability. Resulting actions should be fostered through a set of strategic principles defining a future “landing place” on a systems level first, otherwise reaching sustainability is an unlikely outcome of any effort. Each investment should bring practices closer to the overall aim of complying with the system conditions. This requires back-casting methodology, which means that the starting point of the planning process is an envisioned successful future outcome of the planning. Based on this outcome, the strategic paths are designed. This systematic approach involves close cooperation with other strategic approaches towards sustainability, the utilization of tools such as Life Cycle Assessment in order to evaluate the present situation of material flows, and the implications of various technologies, industrial designs and policy options at a micro, meso and macro-level. 

Zero Emission/ Zero Waste
The Zero Emissions/Waste concept represents a shift from the traditional industrial model in which wastes are considered the norm, to integrated systems in which everything has its use. It advocates an industrial transformation whereby businesses emulate the sustainable cycles found in nature and where society minimizes the load it imposes on the natural resource base and learns to be more efficient with Earth’s resources.

 The concept of “zero waste” requires a targeting of the various environmental media aspects:
  1.   Zero Waste of Resources (100% efficiency): Energy, Materials and Human
  2.   Zero Emissions: Air, Soil, Water, Solid Waste, Hazardous Waste
  3.   Zero Waste in Activities: Administration, Production
  4.   Zero Waste in Product Life: Transportation, Use, End-of-Life
  5.   Zero Use of Toxics: Processes and Products

The key guiding principles for zero waste industrial networks have to be:
  1.  Commitment to the triple bottom line: social, environmental and economic performance standards
  2.  Use of the Precautionary Principle
  3.  Minimising waste to landfill or incineration
  4.  Use of the Producer Responsibility regime: taking back products & packaging
  5.  Seeing re-used, recycled & composted materials as resources
  6.  Preventing pollution and reducing waste, and thereby maximising resource effiency
  7.  Highest and best use of resources
  8.  Use of economic incentives for customers, workers and suppliers
  9.  Selling products or services that are not wasteful or harmful to the environment
10.  Use of non-toxic production, re-use and recycling processes

At the beginning of the project the partners will define a common vision on “zero waste entrepreneurship”. The mythos Individual Producer Responsibility will be investigated if it can become the all-healing-solution in electronics industry as well as how this concept can be applied to other industrial sectors. The work in the ZeroWIN project will also concentrate on new technological developments, waste prevention methodologies and strategies and will adapt existing software tools supporting waste prevention. All this knowledge will be then formalised into an innovative production model for resource-use optimisation and waste prevention. This preparatory work will enable the 9 industrial case studies that form the core of the ZeroWIN project.
These case studies will be used to prove that the ZeroWIN approach can meet at least 2 of the stringent targets of the call:

The ZeroWIN Project will examine and develop new and innovative approaches and effective strategies for the prevention of waste in industries based on industrial symbiosis. Industrial Symbiosis is concerned with regional collaboration of companies from traditionally separated sectors which exchange by-products, energy, water and materials in such way, that the waste from one industry becomes raw material for another.
To find innovative approaches and effective strategies for the prevention of waste in industrial network based on industrial symbiosis

  1. The development of innovative technologies, waste-prevention methodologies, strategies and system tools (e.g. eco-design, local industrial clusters, and resource exchange) exportable into other European and worldwide contexts shall represent the main focus of this action,
  2. The goal is to develop a structured and innovative production model for resource-use optimisation and waste prevention, also taking residues as secondary raw materials, and test it in real cases of sustainable industrial networks.

Results will translate the vision of sustainable development into elements of a sustainable entrepreneurship, focusing at enhancing business opportunities according to a "towards zero waste" approach.

Expected Impacts
The assessment of the life cycle benefits and costs for achieving the main EU environmental resource-related targets (in the context of the industrial networks assessed) will be a measure of the outcomes of this action.

Target Group
By concentrating on industrial networks in the automotive, construction, electronics and photovoltaic industries ZeroWIN will address