Inspiring Communities to Embrace and Achieve Zero Waste


Albatross LogoZero Waste USA encourages everyone to actively engage their community on issues of importance related to getting to Zero Waste, such as:

Save The Albatross Coalition – Protecting Our OceanZero Waste USA has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the impacts of landbased trash on the ocean. Visit the website for more details.

We are also partnering with Cordell Banks NMS to create a focused campus stewardship project that builds on the Winged Ambassors curriculum. The new project uses the Litterati platform to track litter identified through a campus debris survey. Students will be guided to take action through service-learning activities to reduce debris on campus and create change in their communities. More soon! Read more: Plastic Poses a Growing Threat to Seabirds, Study Says, 9/1/15 and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – Threat Of Plastic Pollution To Seabirds Is Global, Pervasive and Increasing 1/31/15

CoolNow! – Compostable Organics Out of Landfills, Now!The EPA estimates that 40-50% of what is currently landfilled is compostable organics – yard debris, scrap wood, food and unrecyclable paper products. When these materials decompose, they emit methane, a greenhouse gas over twenty times more impactful than carbon dioxide. When properly composted and spread on open land, compost greatly increases the soils ability to absorb and utilize atmospheric carbon. In addition, it extends the life of gardens, landscape and farms, providing plant nourishment and conserving water and resources. Visit the website for more details.

Zero Waste Brain Trust (ZWBT) –  is an informal coalition of resource management professionals and others committed to the transition to a world without waste. We are focused on the development of systems that work well for all stakeholders – residents, businesses, service providers, workers, neighbors, jurisdictions and regulators. Intent on collecting and cultivating game-changing concepts, we are also keenly interested in key strategies and incentives that benefit all stakeholders. All are welcome to take part!

Like many ideas, the inspiration for this kind of campaign was independently conceived by numerous people. The ZWBT effort was conceived in 2009 by Portia Sinnott of Zero Waste Sonoma County with help from Kevin Drew and Ruth Abbe. The ZWBT Core Team – led by Portia Sinnott, includes Ruth Abbe, Gary Liss and Rick Anthony with input from Tedd Ward, Lynn Pledger and John Davis. Five ZWBT brainstorms were held from 2010-2012. Sponsors included Zero Waste Sonoma County, Northern California Recycling Association, San Francisco Department of the Environment, Global Recycling Council of the California Resource Recovery Association and Zero Waste USA/GrassRoots Recycling Network. Also assisted by a 2010-11 research grant from the Altamont Educational Advisory Board.

Defending the Zero Waste Brand – The good news is that most solid waste and recycling leaders around the world are now embracing the concept of Zero Waste. The bad news is that we don’t all agree on what that means.  The Zero Waste International Alliance was established in 2002 to develop worldwide standards to guide the development of the new Zero Waste system. In 2004, ZWIA adopted the first definition of Zero Waste in the world that was peer reviewed by leaders of the recycling, Zero Waste and environmental movements. In 2005, ZWIA adopted Zero Waste Business Principles.  In 2009, ZWIA adopted Global Zero Waste Community Principles, including a revision of the definition of Zero Waste.  In 2013 and 2014, ZWIA adopted the Zero Waste Hierarchy of Highest and Best Use. The combination of these policies is the Zero Waste Brand embraced by worldwide leaders of the recycling, Zero Waste and environmental movements.

Zero Landfill is not Zero Waste – Terms like Zero Waste to Landfill and Zero Landfill suggest that a lot of materials might be burned in an incinerator – that is not real Zero Waste and needs to be called out as something different.  Any place burning more than 10% of their materials in any type of “thermal processing system” is not Zero Waste. Read more: Zero Landfill is not Zero Waste, Eric Lombardi, Biocyle, 7/2011 (pdf)

Coke Campaign, 1997-200?, 

Product Policies – Reuse, Recycle or Ban – Product policies are needed to accomplish a number of goals:

  1. Redesign and make products and packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable
  2. Increase source reduction, reuse, recycling, composting,
  3. Cradle to cradle cycling of materials is the ideal.
  4. Conserve energy and materials; Oppose incineration and landfilling
  5. Reduce volume and toxicity of waste
  6. Support environmental justice
  7. Support local economic development

Some core outcomes that are desired are:

  1. Diversity of service providers; multiple systems and participants
  2. Diversity of collection opportunities; multiple systems and participants
  3. Diversity of producer responsibility organizations (PROs) – not monopolies
  4. Accountability for achieving results in the public interest
  5. Transparency, with local government, service providers, businesses and public participation in program development and oversight

Chemicals policy reform, source reduction requirements, bans on some products and packaging, certification programs, market development, infrastructure development, research, training, extended producer responsibility and other policy levers and programs could be adopted at federal, state and local levels to achieve Zero Waste and sustainability goals.