Zero Waste


Zero Waste definition (2018): 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. (

Zero waste concept was defined by Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) board. The alliance was established to promote positive alternatives to landfill and incineration and to raise community awareness of the social and economic benefits to be gained when waste is regarded as a resource base upon which can be built both employment and business opportunity.  

In 2002, Richard Anthony from the Grassroots Recycling Network (GRRN) organized a scientific committee for a series of Resource conferences (called the R-series) drove by EMPA (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology). Changing the initial topic, they devoted a workshop to Zero Waste with a team of experts in Geneva. 

This was the starting point for a wide campaign of the concept of Zero Waste, leading to involve communities/cities/regions/countries governments to this goal.  

Zero Waste is a goal that is both pragmatic and visionary, and intends to guide people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are resources for others to use.  

Pollution prevention measures are already into recycling regulations, solid waste management plans, and resource conservation programs, with the objective of “recovery prior to landfill”.  Along with the destruction systems, the Zero Waste International Alliance adopted a Hierarchy that focuses on the first 3 Rs Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (including Compost). 

The Zero Waste Hierarchy describes a progression of policies and strategies to support the Zero Waste system, from highest and best to lowest use of materials. It is designed to be applicable to all audiences, from policy-makers to industry and the individual.   

The Hierarchy aims to provide more depth to the internationally recognized 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle); to encourage policy, activity and investment at the top of the hierarchy; and to provide a guide for those who wish to develop systems or products that move us closer to Zero Waste. It enhances the Zero Waste definition by providing guidance for planning and a way to evaluate proposed solutions. 


Closed Loop Systems Design systems to be closed loop rather than linear in their use of resources. 
Close to Source Processes to occur as close to the source as practical.
Conservation of Energy More energy can be saved, and global warming impacts decreased, by reducing waste, reusing products, recycling and composting than can be produced from burning discards or recovering landfill gases.
Do NOT Export Harm Avoid the export of toxic or potentially toxic waste or materials to poorer less developed nations and avoid the export of materials with limited, undefined recycling markets that will be either landfilled or incinerated in another region.
Engage the Community Promote changes and systems that work with communities to facilitate meaningful and sustained participation, increase understanding, and influence behaviour change and perceptions.
Highest and Best Use Creating and keeping materials and products for a use as high on the hierarchy as possible and in the useful loop as long as possible. Keeping materials from being down cycled where the number of future uses or options are limited. 
Information/Improvement Collect information on systems and use as feedback for continuous improvement. 
Local Economies Support the growth and expansion of local economies (production, repair, and processing) in order to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation, improve accountability, and increase repair and parts opportunities.
Materials are Resources Preserve materials for continued use and use existing materials before harvesting virgin natural resources.
Minimize Discharges Minimize all discharges to land, water or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health, including climate-changing gases.
Opportunity Costs Consider opportunity costs of investments and ensure investments occur as high as possible on the Hierarchy. 
Precautionary Principle Ensure that a substance or activity, which poses a threat to the environment, is prevented from adversely affecting the environment, even if there is no conclusive scientific proof linking that particular substance or activity to environmental damage. 
Polluter Pays Whoever causes environmental degradation or resource depletion should bear the “full cost” (to encourage industries to internalize environmental cost and reflect them in the prices of the products).
Sustainable Systems Develop systems to be adaptable, flexible, scalable, resilient, and appropriate to local ecosystem limits.


  • How to recycle materials from food waste or fashion waste before harvesting virgin natural resources? 
  • Common proposals for redesigning and making packaging for food and fashion reusable, recyclable or compostable 
  • Support the growth and expansion of local economies with food and fashion markets/fairs that include production, repair, and processing by improving employment and reducing energy transportation cost.  

Fix-it clinics in San Diego for clothes and household electric appliance (USA) 


a) Academic/peer reviewed 

Glaviˇc, P.; Pintariˇc, Z.N.; Bogataj, M. Process Design and Sustainable Development. A European Perspective. Processes 2021, 9, 148. 

Zaman, A. A comprehensive review of the development of zero waste management: lessons learned and guidelines Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol 91, 2015, Pages 12-25, ISSN 0959-6526, 

b) Other sources