Zero Waste

Zero Waste is a holistic approach to managing materials in a closed loop system (circular economy), where all discarded materials are designed to become resources. Reducing waste is an important strategy for both greenhouse gas emissions reductions and overall sustainability.

Approximately 42% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are associated with the materials we use – from extracting the raw materials, to manufacturing products from them, distributing them, using them, and then finally disposing of them. While reuse, recycling, and compost are important to reducing the impact of the waste we produce, the production of materials is where the vast majority of impacts occur over a material’s lifecycle, so it is important to prioritize waste reduction overall.

Palo Alto's current diversion rate, which includes all waste prevention, reuse, and composting activities that divert materials from landfills, is 84 percent.

Zero Waste and the S/CAP

The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) guides Palo Alto's sustainability and emissions reduction strategy.  While Zero Waste is part of our overall sustainability strategy, solid waste also accounts for a percentage of Palo Alto's greenhouse gas emissions, which can be reduced through key actions set forth in the S/CAP. The S/CAP sets a goal of increasing our diversion rate from 84 percent to 95 percent by 2030. Achieving this will require refinement and enforcement of existing programs, the addition of new policies and programs, fostering producer and consumer responsibility and building community collaboration on waste prevention. 



Take Action!

The City of Palo Alto's Zero Waste Division provides resources and information to help you live a zero waste lifestyle. Explore these below.