Zero Waste

Zero Waste Helps Us
Reduce Waste Generated "Up Stream"


The waste we currently manage through reuse and recycling, is just the tip of this iceberg. Over 71% of the waste generated happens before products and items enter our homes, offices, schools and institutions. Zero waste provides a new way to think of the challenges and opportunities.  

What Is Zero Waste?

Adopting Zero Waste Strategies for your Municipality

State & County Efforts

Municipal Ordinances & Resolutions

Cities & Towns That Have Adopted Zero Waste

Case Studies


What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is 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.

Instead of viewing used materials as garbage in need of disposal, materials are recognized as valuable resources.  A pile of ‘trash’ represents community and economic opportunity including jobs and new products from raw materials.

The zero waste approach seeks to maximize recycling, minimize waste, reduce consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

Zero Waste: 
  • Redesigns the current, one-way industrial system into a circular system modeled on Nature's successful strategies– creating products and packaging that are durable, can be reused or easily recycled
  • Provides waste-based business opportunities to create jobs from discards
  • Recognizes the importance of producer responsibility
  • Aims to eliminate rather than manage waste
  • Works to end tax payer subsidies for use of virgin materials enabling reused and recycled products to compete.

Source: Grassroots Recycling Network and Massachusetts DEP Zero Waste Toolkit

Adopting Zero Waste Strategies for your Municipality

Becoming a ‘zero waste’ community is not about never generating any waste at all, but rather a policy goal to work towards.  In Ohio, Logan County has made a promise to work towards zero waste.  They view zero waste as a “philosophical fabric into which all programmatic elements will be woven.”  Here are their goals:

To realize the promise of Zero Waste the District must: 

  • expand recycling programs
  • increase participation in those programs
  • improve regional recycling and composting opportunities
  • encourage others to develop innovative and effective methods of waste reduction
  • develop incentives to move public and private interests toward Zero Waste methodologies
  • educate to encourage attitudes and behaviors toward green purchasing, resource conservation and recycling. 

Logan County recognizes that these changes will take time but that does not deter them from setting and reaching for a goal of zero waste in their district.  What about you?  Is your community ready to implement zero waste strategies?

State & County Efforts on Zero Waste

Pennsylvania House Bill 117   A Resolution urging State agencies and communities, businesses and residents to adopt zero-waste initiatives.

The Zero Waste Solution: How 21st Century Recycling and Trash Reduction Can Protect Public Health and Boost Connecticut’s Economy  About how the state of CT needs to start looking at zero waste.  (ConnPIRG Education Fund, Spring 2013)

Oregon’s 2050 Vision and Framework for Action for Materials Management   To guide state policy and programs and to achieve the best environmental results at the lowest cost to society.

New York’s Beyond Waste Plan - A Sustainable Material Management Strategy

County of Hawai`i Zero Waste  Passed legislation in 2007 adopting the mission to reduce the county's ecological footprint

Municipal Zero Waste Ordinances or Resolutions

Zero Waste Resolution(Logan County, OH)

Zero Waste Resolution (Seattle, WA)

Zero Waste Resolution (Oakland, CA)

Zero Waste Resolution (Boulder County, CO)

Zero Waste Ordinance Resource Guide (Eureka Recycling)  

Toward Zero Waste: A Look at San Francisco's Model Recycling Policies

Cities and Towns Who Are Adopting Zero Waste Strategies

Los Angeles, California

Berkeley, California

Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District (22 communities)

Austin, Texas

Charlestown, South Carolina

Palo Alto, California

Logan County, Ohio

Boulder, Colorado

Oakland, California

Atlanta, Georgia

Reaching for Zero: The Citizens Plan for Zero Waste in New York City (Consumers Union, 2004)

Case Studies: On the Path to Zero Waste

Xerox Corporation, Rochester, New York

Hewlett Packard, Roseland, California

Epson Portland , Hillsboro, Oregon

Zero Waste Business Recognition Program  (ZWIA)

Zero Waste Resources

Unwasted - The Future of Business on Earth, A 2011 one-hour documentary focusing on the future of Zero waste as a key element of sustainable business. (Sage Environmental Services, Inc., and PorterWorks Inc., Seattle, WA)

Grassroots Recycling Network (GRRN) Zero Waste.  GRRN 2009 Recycling & Zero Waste Conference agenda and presentations available for download.

Zero Waste Toolkit (MA DEP) Provides tools to promote a community wide dialogue on the principles of Zero Waste.

Zero Waste Alliance

CT Product Stewardship Council  Local governments, regional councils of elected officials, state government, businesses, environmental advocacy groups, and concerned citizens working to promote end of life management of certain waste streams in Connecticut.

Zero Waste Zones

Eco Cycle Zero Waste

The End of Garbage Fortune magazine article about corporations moving towards zero waste (2007)

Zero Waste International Alliance 

Stop Trashing the Climate

Climate Change and Waste  (CT DEEP)

Zero Waste Household Guide (Trash Backwards)

Zero Waste Holidays (Go Green On-Line)

Green Hotels: Opportunities and Resources for Success (Zero Waste Alliance)

Food Waste Reduction & Recovery  (DEEP)


Disclaimer: The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) maintains the content on this web site to enhance public access to information and facilitate understanding of waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The DEEP is not recommending these resources over any others and recognizes these represent only a partial listing of resources on this subject.

Content Last Updated February 2020