Zero waste

Zero waste is a philosophy that aims to guide people in the redesign of their resource-use system with the aim of reducing waste to zero. Put simply, zero waste is an idea to extend the current ideas of recycling to form a "circular" system where as much waste as possible is reused, similar to the way it is in nature. "Waste is too expensive; it’s cheaper to do the right things" Paul Hawken. Fact|date=October 2008


The zero-waste strategy is to turn the outputs from every resource-use into the input for another use, or in other words outputs become inputs. An example of this might be the cycle of a glass milk bottle. The primary input (or resource) is silica-sand, which is formed into glass and formed into a bottle. The bottle is filled with milk and distributed to the consumer. At this point normal waste methods would see the bottle disposed in a landfill or similar, but with a zero-waste method the bottle can be saddled with a deposit, at the time of sale, which is redeemed to the bearer upon return. The bottle is then washed, refilled, and re-sold. The only material waste is the wash-water, and energy loss has been minimized(see container deposit legislation).Zero waste actually can sometimes make financial sense as well. The bottle shape accounts for 98 percent of the value of the item, as a lump of glass the 'bottle' is worth only the final 2 percent of its value. In this sense a minimal resource (the glass) can be resold many times over at 1000 percent of its value each time. { [fact

Beyond recycling

Despite the similarities, zero waste is not just another form of recycling; it involves changing things at the production level. Take a computer, in its constituent parts (some steel, copper, glass etc.) fairly worthless yet once built into a computer it is worth much more. However, many computers are disposed of each year, by adopting a modular design policy (eg each aspect of the computer is a separate pluggable element) old computer components can be reused in newer products.

Zero waste depends on the redesign of industrial, commercial and consumer goods. Recycling contents itself with attempts to deal with wastes as delivered, after goods have become garbage. Zero waste does not accept the unthinking creation of garbage, followed by a scramble to capture mere materials. The term "zero waste" was first used publicly in the name of a company, Zero Waste Systems Inc., which was founded by PhD chemist Paul Palmer in the mid 1970s in Oakland California. The mission of ZWS was to find new homes for most of the chemicals being excessed by the nascent electronics industry. They soon expanded their services in many other directions. For example, they accepted free of charge, large quantities of new and usable laboratory chemicals which they resold to experimenters, scientists, companies and tinkerers of every description during the 1970s. ZWS arguably had the largest inventory of laboratory chemicals in all of California, which were sold for half price. They also collected all of the solvent produced by the electronics industry called developer/rinse (a mixture of xylene and butyl acetate). This was put into small cans and sold as a lacquer thinner. ZWS collected all the "reflow oil" created by the printed circuit industry, which was filtered and resold into the "downhole" (oil well) industry. ZWS pioneered many other projects. Because they were the only ones in the world in this business, they achieved an international reputation. Many magazine articles were written about them and several television shows featured them. The California Integrated Waste Management Board produced a slide show featuring ZWS's business and the EPA published a number of studies of their business, calling them an "active waste exchange".

In 2005, Paul Palmer published a book which summarized and drew from his experiences with ZWS called "Getting To Zero Waste". [See [ Getting to Zero Waste] ] This is not primarily a study of chemical reuse but applies the lessons learned there to the theory of universal reuse of all goods.

The movement gained publicity and reached a peak in 1998-2002, and since then has been moving from "theory into action" by focusing on how a "zero waste community" is structured and behaves. The website of the Zero Waste International Alliance has a listing of communities across the globe that have created public policy to promote zero-waste practices. See also the Eco-Cycle website for examples of how this large nonprofit is leading Boulder County, Colorado on a Zero-Waste path and watch a 6-minute video about the zero-waste big picture. Finally, there is a USA zero-waste organization named the GrassRoots Recycling Network that puts on workshops and conferences about zero-waste activities.

The tension between zero waste, viewed as post-discard total recycling of materials, and zero waste as the reuse of all high level function remains a serious one today. It is probably the defining difference between established recyclers and emerging zero-wasters. The tension between the literal application of natural processes and the creation of industry-specific more efficient reuse modalities is another tension. By way of example, one may argue that the creation of biodegradable plastics is wasteful, not environmentally beneficial, because biodegradation means the destruction of the low entropy molecules of plastic, along with all of the expensive inputs needed to create them. The alternative is to create pathways which reuse those molecules over and over. And finally, there is a tension between those who expect instant answers to even difficult questions of design and those who see progress toward real zero waste in the creation of extensive research establishments. The latter are not dismayed by the difficulties of achieving zero waste but see those difficulties as the natural accompaniments of any significant industrial redesign program.

Recycling, Reducing, and Reusing is an extension of Zero Waste

Major solutions for using zero waste is by enforcing the methods of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Zero waste has come to become a necessity for the success of the recycling movement. The cooperation, cross-training and merging of bottom-up and top-down strategies, have been the main transition to broaden the movement from its solid waste management base to include issues that are similar to the community sustainability movement (Roper, 2006, p. 315). Zero waste requires that we maximize our existing recycling and reuse efforts, while ensuring that products are designed for the environment and having the potential to be repaired, reused, or recycled (“What is Zero Waste?”, para 2).


We need to enforce on making more companies worldwide to become zero waste businesses. A lot of the companies are causing landfills to have overabundance of waste. We need to change the amount of waste that gets sent to these landfills. An example of a company that has demonstrated this change is General Motors. By the end of 2010, General Motors, GM, has confirmed their plans to make approximately half of its 181 plants worldwide to "landfill-free". Therefore, this means that any waste from their manufacturing plants will not end up in these landfills. Companies like Subaru, Toyota, and Xerox are also producing landfill-free plants. GM is supposed to have about eighty producing plants twenty months. Furthermore, The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has worked with GM and other companies for decades to minimize the waste through its WasteWise program. The goal for General Motors is finding ways to recycle or reuse more than 90% of materials by: selling scrap materials, adopting reusable parts boxes to replace cardboard, and even recycling used work gloves. The remainder of the scraps might be incinerated to create energy for the plants. Besides being environmentally friendly, it also saves money by cutting out waste and producing a more efficient production. All these organizations all push forth to make our world clean and producing zero waste. If we look at what Americas fund for landfills, the amount is so huge that it’s costing us billions of dollars to clean it up. This “garbage” we put in these landfills could actually be beneficial for our world. Using this “garbage,” we can be producing solar energy or maybe converting it to make rich, nutrient planting soil. On the other hand, this garbage we can reduce, we can reuse it and recycle it for something that we can actually use (Roper, 2006, p. 315). "The success of General Motors in creating zero-landfill facilities shows that zero-waste goals can be a powerful impetus for manufacturers to reduce their waste and carbon footprint," says Latisha Petteway, a spokesperson for the EPA (Carty, 2008, 1b). Similarly, I think this quote is completely true. By having General Motors successfully providing the world with zero waste it will motivate other manufactures to change their goals to zero-landfill facilities. In addition, my opinion to this matter is that America should switch all car manufacturing companies to zero-land-fill.

Having companies and the US eliminating waste to landfills then comes to a new way of reusing materials, deconstruction.

Construction and Deconstruction

Zero Waste is a goal, a process, a way of thinking that profoundly changes our approach to resources and production. Not only is Zero Waste about recycling and diversion from landfills, it also restructures production and distribution systems to prevent waste from being manufactured in the first place. In addition, the materials that are still required in these re-designed, resource-efficient systems will be recycled back into production. Deconstruction is an efficient system and new that can be described as construction in reverse. It involves carefully taking a part a building to maximize the reuse of materials, thereby reducing waste and conserving resources. Deconstruction is a new process that the United States can use to exploit the reusing aspect of striving for zero waste. Dismantling carefully different parts of businesses and homes can maximize the reuse of the materials we use, and thereby reducing waste and conserving resources. The parts that we would be able to save would be architectural elements, windows, doors, and metals. The main parts that we wouldn’t be able to save would be wood flooring, brick walls, and structural timbers (Roper, 2006, p.326). As for the demolition of traditional buildings, workers would generally destroy buildings by wrecking ball or a piece of dynamite. Normally, the disposal costs are far cheaper because of the operating costs for demolition activities; then deconstruction. Approximately seventy pounds of the waste is generated for about every square foot of the residential building demolition. This is because the demolition of a building the non-zero-waste way would not be beneficial to the environment. The demolitions of buildings are completely cheaper in the aspects of money; but on the contrary, when it comes down to waste it produces the most amount of waste. In this situation the deconstruction method would probably be the smarter way in the environmental aspect of things (Roper, 2006, p.326).

Market-based Campaigns

Market-based campaigns like the Extended Producer Responsibility, EPR, and Precautionary Principle have been planning to put pressure on zero waste. Some examples of these market-based campaigns are Staples, Home Depot and computer take-back campaigns. These campaigns have been inspired after the successful campaigns to pressure McDonald’s to change their meat purchasing practices and also Nike to change its labor practices in Southeastern USA. They are both based on the idea that organized consumers can be active participants in the economy and not just passive subjects. In addition, the same strategy and environmentally/economic considerations are emerging in the construction industry to reduce or eliminate wasted material in the construction process (Roper, 2006, p.315).


Instead of market-based campaigns there are corporations like Wal-Mart, Nike, Toyota, and ford that have all set zero waste targets. Jessica Winter believes that zero waste is more spiritual ideal and not realistic (Winter, 2006, p.2). On the other hand, I think she is wrong to say zero waste is more spiritual then realistic because I believe if we put our dedication and time we can accomplish that goal. Nike is the leader in the multinational for zero waste product design. Nike uses recyclable polymers, water-based solvents, and fabric woven from used soda bottles (Winter, 2007, p. 2). On the contrary, Wal-Mart has been working on making their whole company completely sustainable in about two years. Wal-Mart is striving to use less plastic, and removing all chemicals that contain in all of the products. Wal-Mart wants to demonstrate having no dumpsters or compactors behind their buildings at all. In the computer and jewelry department, Wal-Mart is trying to find cost-efficient ways to recycle these computers and jewelry. In the food department, Wal-Mart is trying to change the way they purchase seafood. Wal-Mart will set a standard on only buying from non-sustainable seafood vendors. Wal-Mart’s standard will only buy from fishing companies who do not steal or over-fish from the oceans. Wal-Mart is really trying to push for a more sustainable, zero waste kind of business (Willet, 2004).

In Conclusion

By having companies that change their way of manufacturing, new businesses starting off by using environmental friendly appliances, construction workers deconstructing houses in the correct way and just having the common citizen recycling their everyday garbage can make a huge difference in the future. Making all these changes demonstrates that Americans can have zero waste. Have companies, citizens, and manufactures make these changes will show all the doubtful people out there that zero waste can happen. Furthermore, As Americans we can create an environment that is filled with zero waste. It is possible; it just takes a community of people willing to make these big changes. I believe that we can make this great change. I think it is possible I believe we can make this change for the better and have a sustainable environment that contains zero waste. Similarly, in 2012, London is trying to make it the “first ‘zero waste’” games (Winter, 2006, p.3). All over New Zealand, Australia, Canada and now London; America needs to start making it one of its main concern. We need to do something now! Not later but now! So just think the next time you throw that plastic water bottle in the garbage but it in the recycling bin! It is that simple now just keep that in mind for the next time.

ee also

*source reduction


*Carty, S. S. (2008, September 5). GM plans to dump use of landfills. USA Today, p. 1b. Retrieved September 23, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database (J0E058745622408):
*Four new Wal-Marts to use 25% less energy. (2008, January 16). The Toronto Star, p. 1. Retrieved September 23, 2008, from LexisNexis database:,1,27,14&docsInCategory=3&csi=8286&docNo=1
*Roper, W. (2006). Strategies for building material reuses and recycle. International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, 6(3/4), 313-345.
*What is Zero Waste California? (2004, December 6). Zero Waste California [Fact Sheet] . Retrieved September 29, 2008, from
*Winter, J. (2007, March 11). A world without waste-The ‘zero waste’ movement imagines a future where everything is a renewable resource. The Boston Globe, pp. 1-3. Retrieved September 22, 2008, from LexisNexis database:

External links

* [ Zero Waste Network]
* [ Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA)]
* [ Eco-Cycle]
* [ GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN)]
* [ Zero Waste Alliance]
* [ Zero Waste Institute ] (Paul Palmer's organization)
* [ Zero Waste California]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Zero waste agriculture — is a type of sustainable agriculture which optimizes use of the five natural kingdoms, i.e. plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and algae, to produce biodiverse food, energy and nutrients in a synergistic integrated cycle of profit making processes… …   Wikipedia

  • City of Oakland's Zero Waste Program — The City of Oakland, California, adopted a Zero Waste Strategic Plan in 2006, detailing a road map for the City to follow toward the implementation of a Zero Waste System by 2020. As stated in a City Resolution, introduced by then Mayor Jerry… …   Wikipedia

  • Waste hierarchy — The waste hierarchy refers to the 3 Rs of reduce, reuse and recycle, which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability. The 3 Rs are meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance. [cite… …   Wikipedia

  • Waste management in Hong Kong — In the densely populated city of Hong Kong, waste is a troublesome issue. The city generates around 6.4 million tons of waste each year, and in eight years time, its existing landfills are expected to be full. The government has introduced waste… …   Wikipedia

  • Zero emission — refers to an engine, motor, or other energy source, that emits no waste products that pollutes the environment or disrupts the climate. Zero emission enginesVehicles and other mobile machinery used for transport (over land, sea, air, rail) and… …   Wikipedia

  • Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives — (ZERI) wurde 1994 von Gunter Pauli an der United Nations University (UNU) mit der Unterstützung der japanischen Regierung ins Leben gerufen.[1] Drei Jahre bevor das Kyoto Protokoll 1997 verabschiedet wurde, führte Pauli – ein belgischer Ökonom… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Zero-energy building — BedZED zero energy housing in the UK A zero energy building, also known as a zero net energy (ZNE) building, Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB), or Net Zero Building, is a popular term to describe a building with zero net energy consumption and zero …   Wikipedia

  • zero — ▪ I. zero ze‧ro 1 [ˈzɪərəʊ ǁ ˈziːroʊ] noun zeros PLURALFORM or zeroes [countable] 1. the number 0 …   Financial and business terms

  • zero-emission vehicle — a vehicle, as an automobile, that does not directly produce atmospheric pollutants. Abbr.: ZEV * * * zero emission vehicle noun A motor vehicle that does not emit polluting waste (abbrev ZEV) • • • Main Entry: ↑zero …   Useful english dictionary

  • zero-based budgeting —  A management policy which calls on all programs to justify every aspect of their funding at the start of each year.  The idea behind this policy is that nothing is sacred and all expenditures must be continually justified.  ► “Zero based… …   American business jargon

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.