Zero Waste Certification

Businesses and Communities are leading the way to Zero Waste all over the world. There are thousands of businesses and communities who are working hard to minimize their impacts to the environment with 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. In order to formally recognize these initiatives ZWIA has been working with ZWIA National Affiliates to develop, implement and manage various Zero Waste Recognition and Certification programs around the world.  All businesses and communities recognized or certified under one of ZWIA’s National Affiliates may be listed on the ZWIA website in recognition of their accomplishment.

The first business was officially recognized in the United States by the GrassRoots Recycling Network now doing business as Zero Waste USA,  the United States National Affiliate.  To inquire about Zero Waste Recognition and Certification programs in your region or country, please connect below with the National Affiliate in your country. If there is no national affiliate in your country, please use the link below and the ZWIA Zero Waste Certifications committee will assign a National Affiliate to assist you.

Zero Waste Certified Businesses

Zero Waste Business Certification


The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) has a Recognition Program for Zero Waste Businesses for non-hazardous wastes  (referred to as “materials” below).  This provides a framework for ZWIA approved national organizations to recognize businesses that are operating in their country in keeping with the ZWIA Definition of Zero Waste and ZWIA Zero Waste Business Principles. This Recognition Program is designed to recognize businesses that have a Zero Waste goal and have reduced their waste to landfill, incineration or the environment by 90% or more. This Program will continue until ZWIA approved national organizations offer ZWIA approved certification programs for Zero Waste Businesses in that country.

Eligible Businesses

  • Institutions (including schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, prisons and other government facilities)
  • Commercial
  • Industrial (including manufacturing)
  • Venues and events
  • Non-governmental organizations and social enterprises

Benefits of ZWIA Zero Waste Business Recognition

  • National Affiliate is authorized to publicly say “The Zero Waste International Alliance has reviewed data provided by the business and determined that they are diverting over 90% of their discards from landfilling or incineration according to ZWIA Zero Waste Business Principles.”
  • May be listed as a Zero Waste Business on ZWIA website and website of ZWIA National Affiliate.

Minimum Requirements to be a Zero Waste Business

  • Adopted ZWIA goal for Zero Waste to landfill, incineration or the environment
  • Adopted corporate policy of Zero Waste that uses ZWIA definition of Zero Waste as summarized here:
    • All discarded materials are resources
    • Resources should not be burned or buried
    • Goal is zero air, water and land emissions
  • Achieved 90% or more diversion of all discarded resources from landfills or incinerators as defined in ZWIA Principles for one facility, for a geographic area, or corporate-wide.
  • Met all national, state/provincial and local solid waste and recycling laws and regulations.
    • There are 4 levels of recognition for businesses that achieve different levels of diversion of all discarded materials. All levels require diversion from landfills and incinerators, and that materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy at biological temperatures and pressures:
      • Achieved 90% Diversion from landfills and incinerators
      • No Burn & Diverted 90% from landfills; and all remaining discarded materials (residues after reuse, recycling, composting or recovery) must be pre-processed before going to a double-lined landfill that meets EU standards or equivalent.
    • No Burn and No Bury of 100% of all discarded materials.
  • Commit in writing to continuous improvement to reduce the remaining residue that goes to landfills or incinerators by at least 1% of baseline disposal each year and/or to address other Zero Waste Business Principles over time. Commit in writing to phase out of all burning in next contract with service providers or when alternative facilities are available. Until all materials are diverted, use of upgraded landfills that meet European Union Landfill Directive or equivalent is preferable to any form of incineration.
  • Submit summary of their Zero Waste initiatives that can be published on ZWIA and National Affiliate websites and indicate which sector they would like to be listed in by UNSPC.
  • Submit data annually to National Affiliate to be able to continue use of “ZWIA approved” Recognition Program that ZWIA is authorized to post.  A full year of data will be provided for such annual renewals.  Data submitted will be public and published on the National Affiliate’s website.


  • Data provided to ZWIA has been published formally (e.g., on corporate website, in Annual Report, in Environmental Health & Safety Report, in Sustainability Report, in Climate Change Plan, in Securities Exchange Commission filings, or in similar reports submitted to regulatory authorities that have jurisdiction over the business).  National Affiliates are encouraged to develop standardized forms to obtain info needed for recognition.
  • Data documents a base year and measurements since the base year that adjust for changes in size, type and nature of business.  Base year could be the last reporting year (calendar or otherwise), if data is provided on latest annual basis.
  • A combination of indices may be used to demonstrate continuous improvement that gives preference for elimination of wastes and establishment of reuse systems.  This Program is intended to focus first on reducing and reusing materials (as defined above, and including products, materials and packaging), then recycling and composting the rest.
  • A business may be recognized as a Zero Waste Business once it demonstrates that it has achieved the 90% waste diversion threshold.  This recognition is not designed to ensure that the business adheres to all the Zero Waste Business Principles nor any other regulatory or compliance matters.
  • If any data is determined by the National Affiliate to be falsified in applying for this Recognition Program, even if the business has already paid for the Recognition Program, the business shall be deleted from the National Affiliate’s website and ZWIA shall be notified to delete them from the ZWIA list of Zero Waste Businesses.

National Affiliates

  • Nongovernmental organizations with a national focus that have officially adopted the ZWIA Definition of Zero WasteZWIA Zero Waste Business Principles and ZWIA Global Principles for Zero Waste Communities to guide their policies and programs. Groups should submit to ZWIA a statement of qualifications for playing that role, background of the organization, who will be lead for the organization, and key staff or consultant experience with doing business assessments.
  • Only one organization can be officially accredited by ZWIA to implement this Recognition Program in each country.  That organization may authorize other organizations to operate under their oversight and guidelines.  A ZWIA National Affiliate could operate in more than one country until there is another approved National Affiliate for another country.  ZWIA National Affiliates must be accredited annually by ZWIA.  ZWIA National Affiliates shall provide ZWIA an Annual Report on their activities, including a summary of the recognitions they have done and any challenges or complaints encountered through the year regarding any businesses recognized or their program.
  • ZWIA National Affiliates must be approved by a quorum plus one vote of all ZWIA Planning Group members voting within a week of circulation. This approval must be renewed annually with a submittal by December 1st each year to ZWIA requesting such a renewal..
  • ZWIA National Affiliates are authorized to charge fees for this service. In setting their fees, National Affiliates will include payment to ZWIA of 10% of the fees charged per business for ZWIA management and oversight of the program. National Affiliate fees should be set at a level that reflects the intent for this program to sunset once there is a national certification system that includes third-party verification. If additional reviews are requested during the course of a year, additional fees would be paid.
  • Once a National Affiliate develops a Certification Program, this Recognition Program may continue as an entry step in a Certification Program by recognizing those who are working toward Zero Waste for businesses that adopt ZWIA goal of Zero Waste and a plan to achieve it.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code® (UNSPSC®) provides an open, global multi-sector standard for efficient, accurate classification of products and services.