What is Zero Waste?

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.

Zero Waste is a big idea with one goal: to eliminate waste. In 2006, a group of Marin’s community members began to wonder: is it possible to completely eliminate waste in Marin and live a waste free life? We recycle, compost, donate, drive hybrids, walk, bike, and participate in conservation on a daily basis. Many of us have done everything within reach to make our local environment a clean and beautiful place to live, but each and every day, thousands of pounds of waste still enter our landfill.

We can eliminate waste in Marin County but not without the participation of all residents and businesses. We believe that, together, it’s possible to set an example that encourages the rest of the nation to live sustainable lives.

How long until it's really gone? Paper: 2-4 weeks; Orange peel: 6 months; Soda can: 80 years; Plastic bottle: 450 years; Styrofoam: Infinity

The History of Zero Waste

For most of the first half of the 20th century, we recovered approximately 75 percent of the waste we generated for reuse. That impressive figure dropped to 7.5 percent by the 1970s and became a driving issue in the 1980s, best illustrated by the 1987 “garbage barge,” which left Long Island, New York in search of a final disposal site. The floating barge was a lead story in print and broadcast media throughout the nation. This event shifted the focus of national emphasis onto municipal solid waste (MSW) management.

These events spurred renewed emphasis on reducing, reusing and recycling materials within the waste stream. The commitment to ensure safe landfilling and combustion of MSW was reinforced through legislation and regulations to strengthen the commitment to the health and safety of the citizens of California as well as the protection of our environment.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) was created by two pieces of legislation, AB 939 and SB 1322, signed into law as the Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989. The Act established a new approach to managing California’s waste stream and mandated goals of 25 percent diversion of each city and county’s waste from disposal by 1995 and 50 percent diversion by 2000. The Act defined environmentally safe disposal of waste that could not be diverted and established $10,000-per-day fines for cities and counties that did not comply.

Zero Waste in Marin County

Under the Act, all cities and counties were required to develop Integrated Waste Management Plans to outline how they planned to meet the 25 percent and 50 percent mandates. Realizing that it would be mutually beneficial to jointly prepare for the Integrated Waste Management Plan, Marin’s cities and towns, along with the County, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 1990.

Since then, Marin’s public agencies and private waste haulers and facility operators have worked together to develop Marin’s Integrated Waste Management Plan and to implement the programs necessary to meet the mandates. In 1996, the partnership forged with the MOU led Marin’s cities and the County to form the Marin Hazardous and Solid Waste Joint Powers Authority (JPA). Visit the About Zero Waste Marin page to learn more about Zero Waste Marin and our current members.

Print This Page Print This Page