Getting to Zero Waste

One half planning and implementation, the other half requires a shift in culture.

Zero Waste is both a matter of planning for cities and one of culture change. Many cities have developed extensive diversion infrastructure and have conducted comprehensive outreach programs; and increasingly, landfill diversion is a mandate by local or regional governments. These advances, along with policies that help shape consumer and producer behavior, have moved cities closer to Zero Waste goals and are changing the way the public understands waste. Zero Waste planning in pioneering cities has catalyzed a cultural shift that departs from a throw-away society, as people begin understand the problems associated with landfills and waste. The social significance of this shift is often overlooked in favor of the technical aspects of program implementation, but is equally relevant and important to achieving long-term Zero Waste goals. As a follow up to last year’s Biocycle conference presentation on “Front of the House Recycling and Composting in San Francisco,” ESA’s Robin Schidlowski, at this year’s conference, explored the origin of the throw away culture and documented its current undoing in her “Getting to Zero Waste” presentation. By understanding the social and behavioral changes behind getting to Zero Waste, industry leaders are better able to identify, articulate and facilitate the cultural change promoted through source separation programs.  

For more information on Zero Waste, contact ESA’s Robin Schidlowski at or at 415.896.5900.

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