What is Zero Waste

 “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

2018, Zero Waste International Alliance, www.zwia.org

This internationally accepted, peer-reviewed definition is important as others try to define it merely as no waste to landfill. Zero Waste is about reducing the throughput of materials to live more lightly on the land.

Why Zero Waste

  • Waste is a symptom of our overconsumption and wasteful use of resources.
  • Other symptoms include climate change, habitat loss and degradation, pollution (air, water, land), soil nutrient loss, species overexploitation and extinctions, ocean acidification, human health risks, ecosystem collapse, inequity and injustices.
  • Zero Waste saves resources and habitat, provides jobs and reduces toxic chemicals and pollution including greenhouse gases. Zero Waste can also save money, space and time.
  • Want to better understand the link between consumption and environmental justice -see this atlas
  • The Zero Waste philosophy fits well with the Doughnut Economics model of ensuring enough resources for people to thrive but not so much that we harm the planet. See this video for a description of a city level plan.

Zero Waste Hierarchy

Zero Waste BC supports the Zero Waste Hierarchy adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance and Zero Waste Canada.  More information on the guiding principles, guiding questions, definitions, and detailed levels for each step of the hierarchy can be found here.


What is needed

Many actions are required but here are some of the key ones:

  • A Zero Waste plan for BC. The BC Intermunicipal Working Group for Zero Waste developed a discussion paper outlining what should be in the plan for BC.
  • Redesign
  • Sustainable procurement (The Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement is one group working on this)
  • Supporting reuse, repair and sharing (the Share Reuse Repair Initiative is building this as are numerous Repair Cafes around BC)
  • Break  Free from Plastic -momentum is building globally to reduce our plastic use where it is not needed.
  • Promoting strong extended producer responsibility (EPR).
  • Promoting food waste reduction and composting for organics
  • Avoiding burning waste such as waste to energy, incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, plasmification, creating resource derived fuel, sending waste to cement kilns and other forms of wasting materials.