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Zero Waste Is A Goal And Plan

Zero Waste is a GOAL that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary. It provides guidance to people who wish to change their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate 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 are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.” [adapted from Zero Waste International Alliance, 2009.]

Currently, the predominant materials management model is a one way system — from the earth to the dump: We extract natural resources like trees, precious metals and petroleum. We manufacture them, often through polluting, toxic and wasteful practices, into products designed for the dump. We distribute them, often shipping them long distances, from manufacturing to sale. Consumers are left with few choices and opportunities to do the green thing. After we buy and use products, we pitch our products into a hole in the ground (aka landfill) or an incinerator and destroy the value of those resources. When we need new products, we just head back to the natural resources like they’re in infinite supply.

Zero Waste offers a new and better PARADIGM. Unlike our country’s outdated, linear 20th Century approach to materials management (extraction of raw materials → production → consumption → disposal), a Zero Waste system is cyclical, like in nature. The goals of Zero Waste are both qualitative and quantitative: the redesign of production systems and resource use —from product design to disposal — eliminating wasteful and polluting practices; and on the back-end, the capture of discarded materials and use of them – instead of natural resources – to make new products, creating far less pollution and feeding the local economy.

Zero Waste is a PHILOSOPHY and a DESIGN PRINCIPLE for the 21st century. Zero Waste strives for the highest and best use of materials, reduces consumption, and requires that products and packaging be made with non-toxic elements designed to be reused, repaired, recycled or composted back into the economy or the environment. Zero Waste is a PLANNING APPROACH for the environmental management of resources. It aims to prevent waste by design rather than manage it after the fact. In contrast to our current outmoded approach, Zero Waste promotes and is key to a sustainable economy and lifestyle.

ZERO WASTE HUMBOLDT’S mission is to develop waste prevention, reduction, reuse and recycling solutions for the residents, businesses, community-based organizations, and government agencies of Humboldt County. Our activities include public outreach and education, policy advocacy, technical consulting, and project coordination and support.

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