Cities, Schools Aim to Become Zero Waste Communities

What is “zero waste”? To some, it means reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill to zero. To others, zero waste is a process and a philosophy that involves a redesign of products and a redesign of consumption, so all material goods can be reused or recycled—or not needed at all. A number of local jurisdictions in California have implemented zero waste programs or passed resolutions related to zero waste.

In 2014, Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) became the first school district in the nation to commit to the goal of zero waste.

The city of Oceanside provides recycling bins and educational materials to each campus, measures the amount of waste the school produces, and educates the school community on how to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible. By the end of the 2016/17 school year, the OUSD Zero Waste Initiative will have reached 13 of the OUSD’s 23 schools and saved the district nearly $100,000 in avoided landfill servicing fees. By the end of 2020, the city plans to implement its zero waste plan at all schools in the district.

Kids Recycling At School

Christa McAuliffe Elementary is one of the schools participating in the zero waste program.

The students are trained to recognize different waste materials and to sort them accordingly for disposal or recycling. During lunchtime, a student “Green Team” helps sort lunch waste and teaches classmates about waste diversion and recycling. The school encourages parents to volunteer alongside their children, thereby spreading the impact of this educational program beyond the four walls of the school.

We may or may not ever reach zero waste, but we continually work toward the goal. Today, a 90 percent reduction of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators is considered an achievable goal by such groups as the Zero Waste International Alliance and the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council. However, each succeeding increment toward zero requires systematic changes and improvements, and a significant, collaborative effort.

If you’d like to learn more about zero waste and what California cities and counties are doing to become zero waste communities, visit our Zero Waste webpage

Posted on May 13, 2017

Summary: What is “zero waste”? To some, it means reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill to zero. To others, zero waste is a process and a philosophy that involves a redesign of products and a redesign of consumption, so all material goods can be reused or recycled—or not needed at all. A number of local jurisdictions in California have implemented zero waste programs or passed resolutions related to zero waste.