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More About Zero Waste

We believe the Zero Waste movement has many laudable goals, including promoting green jobs and educating society about the benefits of moving away from living in a throw away culture. We are glad to assist the Zero Waste movement and have created this page on our website to promote its goals.

What is Zero Waste?

According to the Californians Against Waste website, Zero Waste is "a concept aimed at eliminating waste and redefining the way in which we manage and use our resources. Zero waste looks at developing and creating products that would use fewer materials and could be easily reused and recycled back into nature or the market place."

Taken to the extreme, Zero Waste means exactly what it says: making no waste at all. Everything we use is reused over and over again. In a Zero Waste world, for example, empty containers would be brought into supermarkets and refilled from bulk dispensers. Even some recycling would be frowned upon because recycling allows for the continued production of products that could be eliminated (for example, plastic water bottles, which can be replaced by reusable water bottles).

Another version of a Zero Waste world would be one in which the need for landfills is eliminated through reduced consumption and reuse of products, but there would be continued heavy reliance on centralized recycling and composting programs.

Marin County's Zero Waste Goal

In April of 2007, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted a 2025 Zero Waste goal. You can watch a video of the April Board of Supervisor’s meeting or click here to view a copy of the resolution (a pdf) put forth by Supervisor McGlashan. Recently, the Marin County Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Joint Powers Authority (JPA) commissioned a Zero Waste study to learn how Marin can reach Zero Waste goals. You can find the full text of the study online here.

The Garbage Industry and Zero Waste

There is some debate over the garbage industry's role in the development of Zero Waste programs. Some critics believe we don't want Zero Waste to succeed because it will put us out of business. Others go as far as to suggest that our industry is actually the source of the problem. (Apparently they think an easy-to-use waste collection system enables the public to live in a throw away society without feeling guilty about it, and therefore encourages consumption.) 

These assertions are needlessly divisive. First, it's true the garbage industry makes it's money hauling waste, but casting aspersions on this service doesn't provide solutions to the problem of over consumption and needlessly focuses attention away from progress. The development of new services like resource recovery parks, deconstruction services and repair malls that will be necessary to achieve Zero Waste will take time and will be instigated by changes in our behavior. Garbage companies will be a necessary bridge between now and the time Zero Waste is a reality. Even then we believe recycling and composting services will continue to play their part, so "garbage" companies will simply continue shifting their operations to these activities rather than ceasing to exist.

Second, the garbage industry is not responsible for the volume of waste our society produces. Providing an easy-to-use waste collection system, and recycling and composting services does not undermine ultimate Zero Waste goals. The bottom line is that garbage companies still must do their job in today's world and cannot assist Zero Waste goals by decreasing services to discourage consumption.

Proponents know that Zero Waste "is not a solution, but a lifestyle." For us as consumers, that means rethinking our purchasing behaviors. For manufacturers, it means redesigning products and packaging. For the garbage industry, it means being prepared for changes in the kind of waste created and collected.

Mill Valley Refuse Service has been serving Marin County for more than 100 years. We’ve adapted to the changing needs of our clients, community and environment successfully over our century of service, and we will be doing our part to help Marin reach its Zero Waste goals.

Disseminating information about Zero Waste methods and goals is an essential part of the process, and we hope this website will help in that regard.

Go back to our Zero Waste page.