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ZERO WASTE

In Nature, Biodegradability Is The Norm And There Is No Waste.

Zero Waste, the application of this fact, ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled into the marketplace or nature. In other words if it can’t be recycled – it shouldn’t be made! Some people vehemently object to the term “zero waste” because reaching zero discards is impossible. We suggest they compare it to Zero Accidents or Zero Emissions – obviously programs well worth the effort.

Zero Waste is a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st Century. It is not simply an end-of-the-pipe solution; it is a primary strategy to work upstream to eliminate waste, instead of managing it. In other words, Zero Waste is not simply about putting an end to landfilling and end-of-pipe solutions - it heralds a fundamental change.

Zero Waste is a path or direction that can be used by communities, businesses, institutions, events and even households to guide our decisions and actions. In the US, the State of California is leading the way: “Now, with recycling and conservation programs in every city, we are able to embrace the zero waste concept as our guiding principal and goal for the future.” www.zerowaste.ca.gov. This challenge is also being collaboratively worked on all over the world by thousands of people and agencies. www.grrn.org/zerowaste, www.zwia.org/links.html.

Zero Waste Fundamentals
Recycling Is Not Enough!
Recycling alone will not end our dependency on landfilling and incinerators, nor reverse the rapid depletion of our natural resources. As world population and consumption continue to rise, it is clear that our one-way system of extracting virgin resources to make products that will later be buried or burned or even recycled is not sustainable.

All Organics Out of Landfill
In many municipalities organics are still a major component of the waste stream. The 2004 California Statewide Waste Characterization Study reported that Organics - yard waste, food and compostable paper, averaged 20% of what is still being landfilled. As these materials degrade they create methane, a green house gas at least 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Many of these emissions could be reduced or prevented by rigorous organics recycling programs. www.cool2012.com.

Repair and Reuse – The Unsung Heroes
A very important part of every waste management system, reuse and repair businesses do not receive the attention they deserve. The popularity of Craigslist, E-Bay and FreeCycle, well as Goodwill and Salvation Army demonstrates the public’s interest, yet most recycling program staff are unfamiliar with local reuse and repair businesses and the materials they handle. For example, few curbside and drop-off programs accept textiles - items made of thread, yarn, fabric, or cloth, yet these goods are easily reused or recycled by businesses that have been around since the advent of urban centers.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
In the ZW worldview, the long-term responsibility for a product is on the producer of the item, not you the consumer nor the local government agency that oversees the waste steam. The ultimate goal of EPR is clean, safe materials and production and the elimination of waste at each stage of the product’s life cycle. www.caproductstewardship.org, www.eprworkinggroup.org, www.productpolicy.org

Precautionary Principle – Do No Harm
If an action, policy or product might cause severe harm, the burden of proof should fall on those who are producing it. In other words, it must be proved to be safe before it is implemented - versus proving it is not unsafe. www.noharm.org, www.safecosmetics.org

True Cost Accounting
The price of a product should reflect the full costs of the environmental degradation and public health impacts associated with the virgin resource extraction, processing, manufacture, transportation, and disposal of that product. When the market prices begin to include such costs, the more environmentally-friendly product will also be the less expensive. www.epa.gov/oppt/library/pubs/archive/acct-archive/index.htm

Zero Waste Also Advocates For:
Resource Recovery Parks
Creating Jobs From Discards
Ending Tax Payer Subsidies For Wasteful And Polluting Industries
Redesigning Products And Packaging For Durability

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