Zero Waste Community Certification

The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) has a Recognition Program for Zero Waste Communities.  This provides a framework for ZWIA approved National Affiliates to recognize communities that are operating in their country in keeping with the ZWIA Definition of Zero Waste and ZWIA Global Zero Waste Community Principles. This Recognition Program is designed to recognize communities that have a Zero Waste goal and are working towards or have reduced their waste to landfill, incineration and the environment by 90% or more.

Eligible Communities

Local governments or Regional Districts that have jurisdiction over residents and/or businesses, or an entity that works on behalf of local elected representatives (not state, provincial or federal government). The use of the word “communities” below refers to any or all of these types of situations.

Benefits of ZWIA Zero Waste Community Recognition

  • National Affiliate is authorized to publicly say “The Zero Waste International Alliance has reviewed data provided by the community and determined that they have adopted a Zero Waste goal and are either working towards or diverting over 90% of their discards from landfilling or incineration according to ZWIA Global Zero Waste Community Principles.”
  • May be listed as 1 of 2 categories: “Communities Working Towards Zero Waste” or a “Zero Waste Best Practice Community” on ZWIA website and website of ZWIA National Affiliate.

Minimum Requirements to be Recognized by ZWIA as a Zero Waste Community

  • Adopted goal 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
  • Working towards or achieved 90% or more diversion of all discarded resources from landfills, incinerators and the environment as defined in ZWIA Global Principles for Zero Waste Communities.
  • Meet all national, state/provincial and local solid waste and recycling laws and regulations.
    • Submit summary of their Zero Waste initiatives that can be published on ZWIA and National Affiliate websites and indicate the official title of their agency.
    • Submit data annually to National Affiliate and demonstrate progress in implementing Zero Waste Plan or Strategy. 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.

Categories of Recognition

Communities Working Towards Zero Waste

To be recognized as a community working towards Zero Waste, the community must:

  • Adopt a commitment to implement residential collection programs for recyclables and organics (including food scraps) by a given date
  • Consider all discards generated in the community whether or not they are directly controlled by the community (such as discards generated in the institutional, commercial and industrial sectors).
  • Communities should exercise control over those sectors they are directly responsible for and influence those sectors that they are not directly responsible for.
  • Advocate for redesign of problem materials that are not recyclable or compostable. Consider local actions/campaigns to encourage redesigns.
  • Report progress annually toward Zero Waste Plan milestones.
    • Implement a pay-as-you-throw rate structure or other financial incentives for generators (if allowed by state/provincial or national regulations) to encourage them to waste less and recycle more.
    • Establish a Zero Waste Advisory Board or multi-stakeholder process (involving residents, businesses, staff or elected officials, Zero Waste experts, and non-governmental organizations) to participate in the development and implementation of a Zero Waste Plan or Strategy, assess critical steps, define workarounds or re-tabling of deadlines and development of similar key policy, program and facility implementation decisions.
    • Conduct comprehensive composition studies of discarded materials at least every 10 years in order to: analyze the progress of the Zero Waste Plan, assess what is left in discarded materials, define strategies and campaigns to achieve further improvements, provide feedback to manufacturers and work with them to redesign materials, products and packaging that are hardly or not reusable, recyclable, or compostable.   Comparable data or commodity and service opportunity analyses can be used to meet this requirement. To monitor progress, recommend do more informal annual assessments of residual materials.
    • Oppose any kind of incineration (technologies that operate above 212oF. or 100oC.), both those already operating (“legacy incinerators”) and those in planning or development in their jurisdiction or region. Communities with existing incinerators must commit in writing to phase out all burning in next contract with service providers or when alternative facilities are available.
    • Define quantitative targets for the mid-term (within 10 years) and long-term (within 20 years). These could include a residual waste reduction target (e.g. “less than 50 kgs per person by 2020) or a reduction by a further amount within 10 years (e.g. “reduce by 80% remaining discards”), or adoption of “darn close to Zero”.

These actions should be included in either a formal Zero Waste resolution and/or a Zero Waste Plan or Strategy signed by the person with jurisdictional authority (Mayor, Manager, Council, District, or otherwise, depending on the local regulatory framework and defined responsibilities for the parties locally).

Zero Waste Best Practice Communities

These are communities that follow the guidelines for communities working towards Zero Waste and that demonstrate best practices and actual achievements on the road to Zero Waste. There are 4 levels of recognition for communities that achieve different levels of diversion of all discarded materials for those sectors within their direct control:

  1. Achieved 50% diversion from landfills, incinerators and the environment
  2. Achieved 70%% diversion from landfills, incinerators and the environment
  3. Achieved 90% diversion from landfills, incinerators and the environment
  4. No Burn & Diverted 90% from landfills and the environment

For transparency, all communities must indicate in public pronouncements regarding their Zero Waste recognition what their current levels of diversion are, and what percentage of remaining discarded materials go to landfills or incinerators.  These should be summarized as in the following example:

______________Zero Waste Community Diverts 50%:

Landfill 40%;

Burns 10%

= 50% current diversion rate: 40% going to landfill and 10% burned.

Zero Waste Best Practice Communities must commit in writing to continuous improvement to reduce the remaining residue that goes to landfills or incinerators and to address other Global Zero Waste Community Principles over time such as:

  • Adopt ZWIA Zero Waste Definition
  • Establish Goals and Timeline
  • Engage Whole Community
  • Manage Resources not Waste
  • Program Funding
  • Education and Outreach
  • Zero Waste Assessments
  • Residual Separation/Research Facilities
  • End Subsidies for Wasting
  • Zero Waste Businesses
  • New Rules and Incentives
  • Extended Producer Responsibility
  • Zero Waste Procurement
  • Zero Waste Infrastructure

Until all materials are diverted, use of upgraded landfills that meet European Union Landfill Directive or equivalent is preferable to any form of incineration. Communities are not eligible to be recognized as Zero Waste Communities by ZWIA or its National Affiliates if they are participating in expanding or developing a new incinerator for 10% or more of their discarded materials.

Data and Calculations

  • Discarded materials are what are currently discarded from residential, commercial, institutional and industrial sources in a community.
  • Recognition for diversion achievements from communities is based on what they control.
  • In addition to diversion of streams they control, Zero Waste communities work to influence and advocate for all remaining discards by other sectors to achieve Zero Waste.
  • Diversion is calculated using local protocols that comply with local, state/provincial and/or national  Waste communities work to standards.
  • Diversion includes all activities that reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, digest or recover discarded materials for productive use in nature or the economy at biological temperatures and pressures (less than 212oF or 100oC.).
  • 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. Alternatively, the base year could be the first year submitting under this program to be the basis for future submittals.
  • 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.
  • This recognition is not designed to ensure that the community adheres to all the Global Zero Waste Community 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 community has already paid for the Recognition Program, the community shall be deleted from the National Affiliate’s website and ZWIA shall be notified to delete them from the ZWIA website.

National Affiliates

  • National Affiliates are 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 this program for the organization, and experience of key staff or consultant(s) overseeing the program.
  • Only one organization can be officially designated 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 in the additional country.  A Regional Affiliate (e.g. Zero Waste Europe) may be designated to act as a National Affiliate in multiple countries until National Affiliates for those countries seek independent affiliation with ZWIA. In the event there is no National Affiliate, sub-National groups may form and report under the Regional Affiliate. When a National Affiliate for that country is designated by ZWIA, those sub-National groups will report through the National Affiliate.
  • ZWIA National Affiliate designation must be renewed 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 communities recognized or their program. Annual Reports and applications for renewal of designation must be submitted by July 1 of each year to ZWIA.
  • ZWIA National Affiliates must be approved by a quorum plus one vote of the ZWIA Board of Directors.. ZWIA National Affiliates are authorized to charge fees for services provided. In setting their fees, National Affiliates will include payment to ZWIA of 10% of the fees charged per community for ZWIA management and oversight of the program. If additional reviews are requested during the course of a year, additional fees would be paid.

This process was adopted by the Board of Directors of the Zero Waste International Alliance by a combination of votes at the Board Meeting of May 16, 2014 and subsequent email vote concluded on May 23, 2014. This is based on input from the ZWIA Zero Waste Certifications Committee, ZWIA Board of Directors, and a similar program adopted by Zero Waste Europe provided by Enzo Favoino.  To recommend improvements for future versions of these guidelines, please email Gary Liss.