Zero Waste Communities

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.