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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Operations > Operations Strategy & Management > Waste Management

ZERO Waste Communities

GLA works with communities to establish short-term and long-term Zero Waste programs

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Waste Communities Embrace Zero Waste Strategies

By Gary Liss

Local governments around the world are embracing Zero Waste as a key tool for them to meet their goals for addressing climate change. The Zero Waste International Alliance has developed a list of these communities.

Over two-thirds of New Zealand communities have adopted Zero Waste as a goal, and New Zealand is the first country on earth to have adopted Zero Waste as a goal nationally.

Large urban communities and small rural communities alike have adopted Zero Waste as a goal and are working to achieve that goal. In the United States, California was the first State to adopt Zero Waste as one of eight goals in the 2001 Strategic Plan of the California Integrated Waste Management Board. As a result of that strong state support, over 20 communities in California have adopted Zero Waste as a goal, and most of them are working to develop and implement plans to reach that goal.

Climate Change and Zero Waste

The links between Zero Waste and climate change are significant. Solid wastes that are buried in landfills create methane gas in the anaerobic conditions of the landfill. Methane gas is 21 times as potent as carbon dioxide in changing the planet's climate. And for every ton of waste that reaches municipal landfills, 71 tons have been created "upstream" from mining, manufacturing and distribution of wastes.

US EPA WARM Model to Calculate Effects of Recycling and Composting

Using the all the materials currently discarded in California, the CRRA Recyclers Global Warming Council calculated that it would be the equivalent of taking all the cars off the road in California. Therefore, a key to climate change is to keep all organics out of landfills. In fact, Zero Waste or dramatically increased local waste reduction efforts is one of the single most effective ways that local government can immediately address climate change.

Local governments have the opportunity to participate in many "Cool Cities," "Green Cities," and Sustainability programs that are developing now. Over 900 communities worldwide are part of the ICLEI Network of Local Governments for Sustainability. ICLEI in the United States is working with over 400 communities to address their solid waste issues as part of their sustainability planning.

However, the only local sustainability program that has adopted Zero Waste as a goal so far is the United Nations Sponsored Urban Environmental Accords, which has been adopted by over 100 cities worldwide.

Gary Liss & Associates (GLA), Zero Waste Consultant

ZERI-trained System Designer Gary Liss & Associates (GLA) is working with many communities to develop plans for Zero Waste. In developing these Zero Waste plans:

GLA encourages communities to use the Zero Waste International Alliance definition of Zero Waste: "Zero Waste is a goal that is both pragmatic and visionary, to guide people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health."

GLA performs a Service Opportunity Analysis review of existing system to identify opportunities for new services that will be needed to reduce, reuse, recycle or compost discarded materials.

GLA develops a Menu of Policy and Program Options and identifies facilities needed to achieve Zero Waste. Communities can significantly change what is "economic" in the local marketplace with policies such as:

  • changes in rate structures;
  • changes in compensation, fees, and taxes for waste handlers;
  • zoning overlays for reuse and recycling businesses;
  • permit requirements;
  • conditions of land use permits;
  • and many other legal tools.

Solid Waste Collection Cost Reductions

GLA also works to structure contracts so the avoided costs of solid waste collection and disposal become a critical engine for change in the community. All the funding needed to achieve Zero Waste is already being paid out for wasting, and plans are used to shift those resources to Zero Waste.

GLA works with the community to involve all aspects of the public in developing ideas for what is needed to move forward to Zero Waste. Public participation processes have included Zero Waste Task Forces, public meetings, focus groups, individual interviews with stakeholders, house parties, residential surveys, business surveys, service provider surveys, and media outreach.

Adopt Zero Waste as a Goal

In Los Angeles and Austin, GLA has helped issue a Zero Waste Challenge to ask everyone to work immediately at home, school, work or their house of worship to adopt Zero Waste as a goal, and begin working on that goal. This generates its own creative energy that encourages everyone in the community to get involved.

GLA works with the community then to establish short-term and long-term Zero Waste goals and a timetable to achieve those goals, usually timed to coincide with the end of existing contracts or life of existing facilities, so that the goals leverage real-world issues in the community to support this significant change. Samples of Zero Waste Community Plans include the Palo Alto Zero Waste Strategic Plan and the Oakland Zero Waste Strategic Plan. GLA highlights that communities only need as large a plan as required to get their elected officials to approve the program, policies and budget to move forward.

Gary Liss & Associates
916-652-7850
Fax: 916-652-0485
www.garyliss.com



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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