"We are constantly taking ideas from the spiritual world and forming them into our own conception of the things we desire. Sometimes the finished product does not satisfy or please us. That is because we have taken the idea away from its true parents, wisdom and love." Daily Guru

Zero Waste Communities

by Muna Lakhani

FILED IN: Issue 11 · Sustainability

Communities around the world have begun to adopt Zero Waste goals and Zero Waste Plans to implement those goals. The first community Zero Waste Plan was adopted by the Australian Capital City of Canberra in 1996.

Over half of the communities in New Zealand have adopted Zero Waste as a goal. Seattle, Washington adopted Zero Waste as a guiding principle in 1998. In California, the following communities have adopted Zero Waste goals: Del Norte County, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo County, Santa Cruz County.

Where best practices for eliminating waste, reusing and recycling discarded materials, and composting discarded organic materials are used, some businesses have diverted over 90% of their wastes from landfills. [6] Communities could adopt policies and programs to help their residents and businesses achieve similar results. If many communities adopted policies and programs to go beyond 50% waste diversion, the statewide waste diversion rate would rise significantly.

Barriers to Zero Waste 1. Government subsidies favor wasting and extraction 2. The true costs of wasting are hidden, borne by the public and not factored into today’s prices 3. Producers ignore responsibility for their products and packaging 4. Environmental and social costs of current system are not effectively addressed 5. Inertia of existing viewpoints and practices 6. Perception that land and natural resources are unlimited 7. Perception that technology will solve all problems 8. Perception that small individual efforts will have minimal impact on solving the overall problem. Key Policies and Programs for Zero Waste Communities

Know Your Waste and Design It Out
1. Evaluate materials discarded according to the Urban Ore 12 Master Categories of discarded materials, determine how and where materials are discarded, and identify alternatives. Establish a monitoring and tracking database system that uses the Urban Ore categories to evaluate performance of diversion and source reduction programs by material type.

2. Design waste out of the system by holding producers responsible for their impact. Ask product designers and marketers to consider Zero Waste to be a critical design criterion. Establish environmentally preferable purchasing guidelines to reduce resource use and cut air and water emissions.
Adopt a Zero Waste Goal and Plan for It
3. Adopt a community-wide Zero Waste goal via resolution (see attached GRRN model) or an ordinance defining objectives and statements of policy.

4. Involve residents and businesses actively in the development of a Zero Waste Plan, including extensive education, outreach and input on the Plan’s proposed policies and programs. Establish interim goals for 2010 and a target year to achieve Zero Waste goal (or darn close). Prioritize policies, incentives and programs to eliminate wasting and reduce the toxicity of discarded materials.

Identify current waste elimination, reuse, recycling and composting policies and programs and select additional policies and programs from a menu of best practices around the world.

5. Work with other local governments and businesses to build useful alliances and share successes. Support state and federal policy that will enhance Zero Waste policies and programs. Support citizen actions to encourage businesses to change their policies and practices to move towards Zero Waste.

Hold Producers Responsible
6. Hold businesses financially or physically responsible for their products and packaging manufactured and sold. For retailers, ask them to takeback products and packaging for problem materials not included in residential recycling programs, as in Ottawa, Canada. For contractors and developers, adopt requirements for LEED-certified Green Buildings, encourage adaptive reuse and deconstruction, and require recycling of construction, demolition and land-clearing debris.

End Subsidies for Wasting
7. Adopt policies and economic incentives in Ordinances, contracts, franchises, permits, zoning, General Plans and garbage rate structures so that it is cheapest to stop discarding materials, and reusing, recycling or composting discarded materials is cheaper than landfilling or incineration.

Build Infrastructure Beyond Recycling
8. Ask local businesses to adopt Zero Waste goals, to develop Zero Waste plans, to adhere to Zero Waste Business principles, to meet waste diversion targets, and to source materials that can be reused, recycled or composted.

9. Support existing recycling and composting businesses and nonprofit organizations and help them expand. Develop locally owned and independent infrastructure, on an open, competitive basis.

Create Jobs and Sustainable Communities
10. Develop regional resource recovery parks to provide locations for expansion of reuse, recycling and composting businesses.

11. Fund community Zero Waste initiatives with fees levied on the transport, transfer and disposal of wastes and by leveraging the investments of the private sector.


  • Zero Waste: An Introduction Zero Waste is a goal, a process, a way of thinking that profoundly changes our approach to resources and production. Not only is Zero Waste...
  • Why Reusing Beats Recycling Reusing is often confused with recycling, but they are really quite different. Reusing in the broadest sense means any activity that lengthens the life of...
  • The 3 Rs in simple steps First: reduce. This critical first step has been overshadowed by a focus on recycling. Simplify your life as much as possible. Only keep belongings that...
  • Making Compost Most gardeners have long understood the value of this rich, dark, earthy material in improving the soil and creating a healthy environment for plants. Understanding how...
  • The truth about recycling As the importance of recycling becomes more apparent, questions about it linger. Is it worth the effort? How does it work? Is recycling waste just...
  • PVC, the poison plastic PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, commonly referred to as vinyl, is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health...

1 Comment »

  1. Zero Waste is the logical way to go, if we do not start practicing it as soon as possible humanity is surely doomed.

    Comment by Rory Short

Leave a comment

Subscribe to comments on this post


Cover of Issue 28

Issue 28 of Biophile is now on sale at CNA, Exclusive Books, other bookshops, Dis-Chem Pharmacies and your local Health Shop... find out more


I was just checking the website of the SEXPO which has just visited SA, this is what the Cape Town site says. . . . “The world’s largest Health, Sexuality and Lifestyle expo is coming back to Slaapstad and it’s bigger and sexier than ever! continue reading


Visit Ecotelly.com for more videos


Award Web

Biophile recently received recognition for its contribution to the print & internet category at the 20th SAB Environmentalist & Environmental Journalists of the year Awards. Congratulations to a dedicated team!


Biophile magazine is published every two months by Biophile cc. The magazine is edited by Chris Lautenbach, while subscriptions and advertising are managed by Lindsay Mitchell.
The telephone number is 021 789 0694 and you can send faxes to 086 514 9668 and letters to PO Box 39277 Capricorn Square 7948.