Zeroing In On Zero Waste


What is zero waste exactly? It's exactly what it means: Zero. Waste. It's a concept aimed at eliminating waste and redefining the way in which we manage and use our resources. Living in a "throw away" society, zero waste looks at developing and creating products that would use fewer materials and could be easily reused and recycled back into nature or the market place.

Basically, the goal is to eliminate the entire concept of waste through heavy resource recovery and industrial redesign to emulate the natural cyclical process where there exists no waste. In California, recycling has almost become a habit to most, but recycling alone will not end the state's dependency on landfills nor reverse the continuing depletion of our natural resources. With a state rich in natural resources, protection of these resources are key. Zero waste is not a solution, but a lifestyle and attempt to making living more sustainable for the future.

Advantages of a Zero Waste Society

Zero waste can be a principle to eliminate waste and pollution through some of these main ideas:

  • Redesign of products and packaging for durability, reuse and recyclability.
  • Creating jobs from discarded waste (jobs could be created if resources were preserved).
  • True cost accounting (the inclusion of full costs into products, thus allowing environmentally friendly products to be less expensive).
  • Investing in infrastructure (using taxes to invest in recycling, composting and discard "malls")
  • Use of the extended producer responsibility model

By having the highest and best use of materials, we can thus work towards a more materials efficient economy. Having a zero waste strategy is also a sound business tool as it strongly supports sustainability by protecting the environment, reducing costs and producing additional jobs in the management and handling of wastes back into the industrial cycle. A zero waste strategy may also be applied to communities, industrial sectors, schools and homes.

What has CAW Done to Achieve this Goal?

Most of CAW's sponsored legislation revolves around the idea of zero waste. Some of CAW's accomplishments include the adoption AB 2020 (1986) "The Bottle Bill" which created an incentive for recycling by putting a redemption value on bottles and cans, AB 1305 (1989) "The Recycled Newsprint Act" which requires all newsprint publishers to use increasing levels of recycled content newsprint, AB 939 (1989), which has helped the state reach a 50% landfill diversion rate, SB 20 (2004, Sher) which enacted the Electronic Waste Recycling Act, and the nation's first, and still most expansive, e-waste recycling law, AB 2449 (2006, Levine) which provides consumers with the convenient opportunity to recycle their plastic shopping bags in-store.

More and more municipalities, including Berkeley, Oakland, Irvine and San Francisco, have formatted their environmental services around the idea of Zero Waste. The concept has even gained the attention of Wal-Mart.

What You Can Do