In March, the city council in Berkeley, Calif., passed a resolution establishing a goal of zero waste — among the first in the country. The resolution calls for a 75 percent reduction in city waste by 2010, and zero waste by 2020.
Now the city’s Zero Waste Commission is looking for ways to further enable recycling and put a stop to discarding residential food waste, construction and demolition debris, says Tom Farrell, manager of recycling and solid waste for Berkeley. California already has a 50 percent waste-reduction goal in place, and Alameda County strives toward a goal of 75 percent.
“We were already on a track and we were already moving, so now the track just got longer,” says Farrell, who anticipates that the changes could increase the budget by 10 percent to 15 percent.
Berkeley is not alone in such efforts. Seattle adopted its own zero-waste goal in 1998, and San Francisco and Carrboro, N.C., have passed similar legislation. Australia’s capital, Canberra, has a zero-waste goal for 2010, and New Zealand was the first country to implement a national strategy for achieving zero waste. Many nongovernmental initiatives, in places as diverse as Namibia, Colombia, Scotland and Sweden, also promote zero-waste policies.
“Zero waste is adopted as a philosophy and direction,” Farrell says. “There are programs available that are already being done elsewhere, so we’re not going to have to invent an entirely new program.”
Zero waste is based on the idea that “as in nature, a fully sustainable human culture will have no waste,” according to the Zero Waste International Alliance. It calls not only for recycling, reducing, reusing and repairing, but also for changes such as cleaner production, packaging and “voluntary simplicity.”