In March 2006 the Oakland, CA, City Council adopted a "Zero Waste" goal by 2020 and commissioned the creation of a "Zero Waste" Strategic Plan. Oakland has already achieved the 50% waste reduction goal mandated by California law, primarily through residential recycling collection programs and free market recycling services available to businesses. As opposed to traditional waste management principles, the "Zero Waste" strategy presumes that products are designed to be repaired, reused or recycled, and so that no waste is a threat to planetary, animal or plant health. Communities can strive toward "Zero Waste" by implementing policies to reduce (promote low-impact or reduced-consumption lifestyles, and reduce volume and toxicity of waste); reuse (foster use of discarded materials to stimulate and drive local economic growth); and recycle (improve "downstream" recycling of end of life products and materials to ensure highest and best use).
On a simpler level, municipalities can mandate municipal purchasing of recycled products such as paper. Communities can also create a materials exchange program for items such as computers and chemicals, or give incentives to reduce waste by charging residents based upon the amount of waste they generate with "pay as you throw" programs. Local laws should also insure that communities use "dual steam" recycling, meaning that paper and cardboard is separated at the curbside from bottles, cans and plastic. There is an unfortunate trend toward mixing all recycled waste in a "single stream," which is less expensive for haulers, but undermines the value of the recycling (paper with glass shards, for example, cannot be recycled).
Act Locally: Ten Steps Toward Sustainability:
What is Sustainability?
Step 1: Create a Sustainability Task Force
Step 2: Support Local Business
Step 3: Incorporate LEED and Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings