ZW Definition

Updated Definition of Zero Waste
Adopted by the ZWIA Board on December 20, 2018

Zero Waste is 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. – revised 2018


One of the primary goals of organizing the Zero Waste International Alliance in 2002 was to establish standards to guide the development of Zero Waste in the world. The Planning Group of the Zero Waste International Alliance adopted the first peer-reviewed internationally accepted definition on November 29, 2004. The revised definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance on August 12, 2009 is posted below and the 2018 revision above.

This is the goal we are striving for. Measures of success are outlined in the Zero Waste Business Principles and the Global Principles for Zero Waste Communities.

This definition is intended to be a living document. Please email with any comments or suggestions.

2009 version:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”