What Is Zero Waste

Zero Waste is an approach to using resources more efficiently, through better organization, better education and better industrial design.  It’s much more than just recycling. 

Zero Waste addresses resource use from the design of products, to their utilization, and finally to end-of-life product management.  Traditional production systems are one-way and linear – going from the extraction of resources, manufacturing of goods, product use and then ultimate disposal.  Zero Waste seeks to redesign these systems to be cyclical, where there is no such thing as “waste” and discards are either designed out completely or fed back into the production cycle as raw material.

More detail about Zero Waste is offered below, but as a quick guide, Zero Waste:

  • Recognizes that "waste" is not inevitable 
  • Recognizes that discarded materials are valuable resources
  • Goes beyond "end of pipe" strategies
  • Maximizes recycling and composting
  • Improves consumption
  • Designs "waste" out of the system
  • Requires participation by the whole community

Quicklinks

Definition of Zero Waste
What is Zero Waste Video
Zero Waste System Overview
How Do You Zero? - Palo Alto Community Video Blog
Zero Waste FAQs
Related Links


Definition of Zero Waste

The Zero Waste International Alliance offers this definition of Zero Waste:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
 
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.
 
Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.

 
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What is Zero Waste Video

View the Zero Waste video

The non-profit organization Eco-Cycle has created an informative video that provides an in-depth look at the concept of Zero Waste.
 
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Zero Waste System Overview

It's more than recycling

Zero Waste is much more than the traditional 3R’s of reducing, reusing and recycling.

Zero Waste is a holistic approach to managing the flow of resources through society. It is about designing products and packaging to minimize waste, creating incentives to encourage clean and sustainable products and enterprises, fostering both producer and consumer responsibility, investing in resource recovery facilities, strengthening local economies, and building community collaboration.

The Zero Waste system includes four central concepts:

  • Change the Rules to support resource recovery
  • Create Producer Responsibility to hold industry accountable for creating less toxic and more efficient products
  • Purchase for Zero Waste to use our buying power as our voice for Zero Waste
  • Create Resource Recovery Infrastructure to build the processing and recovery systems to move us toward Zero Waste

Explore our interactive Zero Waste system to learn about the different components of the system and how it relates to you.
 
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How Do You Zero?

Palo Alto Community Video Blog

Hear community members share their stories of what they are doing to create Zero Waste. “How do you zero?” is a video blog series that explores how Zero Waste integrates into our daily lives.
 
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Related Links

More detailed information about Zero Waste is available at the following organizations:


Zero Waste International Alliance
Zero Waste Alliance
GrassRoots Recycling Network
Eco-cycle

Last Updated: Aug 13, 2014