Zero Waste aims to transform industrial processes and products, so that material flows replicate natural systems to become closed loop.
Campaigning groups working on Zero Waste define it as both a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st century. It includes ‘recycling,’ but goes beyond recycling by taking a 'whole system' approach to the vast flow of resources and waste through human society. Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.
The concept of Zero Waste, like Zero Defects, started with corporations, like Xerox, Toshiba, and Fetzer Wineries, which started to think of industrial process waste as a sign of inefficiency and lost profit. Transferred to the municipal sector, the idea focuses attention on the whole life cycle of products. In 1995 Australia’s capital city, Canberra, passed a goal of No Waste by 2010 as a result of an extensive citizen stakeholder process. The GrassRoots Recycling Network brought the idea of waste-free communities to North America, called it Zero Waste, and was instrumental in getting goals adopted in Carrboro, North Carolina, San Francisco and the San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties, in California, and in developing the first comprehensive Zero Waste plan for rural Del Norte County, California. By the late 1990s New Zealand activists started working with local governments; now more than half of all local councils have adopted Zero Waste goals. More recently, the Global Alternatives to Incineration Alliance has spread Zero Waste to dozens of communities in the developing world.
Zero Waste Campaigns
Zero Waste campaigns proliferate internationally, and many are housed under the GrassRoots Recycling Network and the Global Alternatives to Incineration Alliance (GAIA). GAIA's Municipal Discard/Zero Waste Workgroup members are actively campaigning against proposed or existing municipal waste incinerators and investigating the corporations promoting incinerators around the world. Others are conducting waste surveys in their communities, implementing composting, recycling, and other programs to divert materials from landfills and incinerators, or advocating for official Zero Waste policies at the government level.
Zero Waste Resources
Promote Zero Waste In Your Community — visit the “What You Can Do in Your Community” section of the GrassRoots Recycling Network website, where you can access organizing information and their Briefing and Tool Kit for local elected officials.
To learn more about Zero Waste, visit the following websites for information and resources in the U.S.: www.grrn.org; www.ecocycle.org; and www.rcbc.bc.ca/zerowaste.htm, and internationally: www.zerowaste.co.nz and www.no-burn.org.