California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Zero Waste

Zero waste is a process and a philosophy that involves a redesign of products and consumption, so that all material goods can be reused or recycled—or not needed at all.

Today, groups such as the Zero Waste International Alliance consider a 90 percent reduction of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators to be a reasonable goal.

Zero Waste Communities Zero Waste Businesses

Upsidedown tirangle illustrating the zero waste hierarchy. Links to detailed text description.Zero Waste Principles

One principle of zero waste is extended producer responsibility (EPR), also known as product stewardship, which places a shared responsibility for end-of-life product management on the producers, and all entities involved in the product chain, instead of the public. Extended producer responsibility encourages product design changes that minimize a negative impact on human health and the environment at every stage of the product's lifecycle.

Another principle of zero waste is environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP). EPP is a commitment to purchasing products that are less harmful to the environment and to human health. It includes buying goods that have a high percentage of recycled content, avoiding hazardous materials, and taking into consideration the full life cycle of goods and services.

Green design and green building are also important components of zero waste.

See CalRecycle’s home pages for local government and for businesses for general waste reduction resources.

Definitions

Zero waste is an important environmental concept. Here are some common definitions:

  • Zero Waste International Alliance. 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.
  • Wikipedia. Zero waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused.
  • Institute for Local Self Reliance. Zero waste is a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st Century; it is not simply about putting an end to landfilling. Aiming for zero waste is not an end-of-pipe solution. That is why it heralds fundamental change. Aiming for zero waste means designing products and packaging with reuse and recycling in mind. It means ending subsidies for wasting. It means closing the gap between landfill prices and their true costs. It means making manufacturers take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products and packaging. Zero waste efforts, just like recycling efforts before, will change the face of solid waste management in the future. Instead of managing wastes, we will manage resources and strive to eliminate waste. (from the EcoCycle website)
Last updated: October 4, 2017
Zero Waste, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/ZeroWaste/
Benjamin Johnson, Benjamin.Johnson@calrecycle.ca.gov (916) 323-1795