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Zero Waste International Alliance

Initial Document 11/20/2000 by Peter Montague
modified by Bill Sheehan on 1/29/2001.

Introduction

We are a group of waste reduction activists and professionals who came together recently in Colorado to explore a new strategy -- called Zero Waste -- for dealing with and ultimately eliminating the vast flow of waste materials generated by human society. Pollution, energy waste, and destruction of natural habitats all begin with the extraction and processing of virgin resources. To the extent that communities and individuals can avoid extracting and processing virgin resources they can eliminate environmental problems. Building on the tremendous social consensus that has developed around the need for recycling, Zero Waste can now become a key strategy for those concerned about landfilling and incineration, deforestation, resource depletion, excessive consumption, global warming, energy waste, loss of biodiversity, and the hazards of toxic products.

Zero Waste is a breakthrough strategy which aims to radically change the way materials flow through society -- based on the premise that, as in nature, a fully sustainable human culture will have no waste. Zero Waste is a new "call to action" that everyone can identify with and reach for, one that can be driven as much by kids making worm farms from food waste at school as by the profits that can be gained from increased efficiencies in the industrial system or by increased business and employment opportunities in economically hard-hit communities.

Zero Waste starts with the widely-accepted practice of recycling and carries it much further. In spite of its huge growth and success, recycling has so far failed to address the core problem of a society predicated on increasing consumption and waste. We need a workable alternative to existing waste disposal technologies that embraces recycling but also addresses and drives out waste at every stage of the supply chain through a whole range of technologies, interventions and behaviors -- including design for disassembly, a coherent system for returning products to producers (reverse logistics), extended producer responsibility, cleaner production, industrial ecology, resource recovery parks, reuse, repair, and voluntary simplicity.

Zero Waste International Networking

Zero Waste programs are already under way in Australia, New Zealand, India, Egypt and the United States as well as in other countries. These existing programs provide initial working models for what is possible. Furthermore, as incineration and landfill problems crop up across the globe, people everywhere are looking for "a way out" of the waste disposal dilemma and Zero Waste is an attractive alternative. Therefore, we are developing a decentralized international network to communicate among the growing number of local and national Zero Waste groups around the world. The Zero Waste International Alliance is speeding up transfer of the best ideas for promoting Zero Waste and enabling rapid transfer of waste elimination technologies and strategies.

For more information contact:
Warren Snow
Envision New Zealand Ltd [off-site]
P.O. Box 33 239, Takapuna
Auckland, New Zealand

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