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 of Zero Waste on November 29, 2004.
An updated definition of Zero Waste was adopted by the ZWIA board December 2018. This restructuring of definition aligns the definition to the guiding principles of the Zero Waste Hierarchy to create a globally accessible statement of meaning.
“Zero Waste: 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.”
Last updated December 20th, 2018
This is the goal we are striving for. Measures of success in meeting this goal are outlined in the Zero Waste Business Principles and the Global Principles for Zero Waste Communities. This is intended for businesses and communities to reference as the definition for Zero Waste.
Definition last updated: 2018
Progression of Definition
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.
“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.”
(The definition is intended to be a living document. Current peer-reviewed internationally accepted definition was adopted December 2018)