Publish Date: 2010
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, the SWANA Applied Research Foundation’s (ARF) Waste-to-Energy
(WTE) Group identified the issue of documenting the landfill disposal rates of communities with waste-to-energy systems for comparison with other solid waste systems as one of high
importance to the group.
In this regard, a new municipal solid waste (MSW) management strategy that is growing in
popularity is the "Zero Waste" option. According to the Grass Roots Recycling Network,
"Zero Waste is a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st Century. It
includes 'recycling' but goes beyond recycling by taking a 'whole system'
approach to the vast flow of resources and waste through human society.
Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption, and
ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into
nature or the marketplace."
MSW management systems that embrace the zero waste philosophy typically rely on materials
recycling, food and yard waste composting, and composting or anaerobic digestion of mixed
waste to achieve high recycling and waste diversion rates. A key aspect of the zero waste
philosophy appears to be the outright rejection of WTE as a possible system component.
One city that has embraced the zero waste philosophy is San Francisco, California. As stated on its web site,
"Imagine a world in which nothing goes to the landfills or incinerators. We
think it's achievable, and SF Environment is doing everything we can to
make it happen in the residential, business and city government sectors, and
at special events held throughout the city. Today, San Francisco recovers 72
percent of the materials it discards, bringing the city ever closer to its twin
goals of 75 percent landfill diversion by 2010, and bringing the city to zero
waste by 2020."
In the past, the WTE industry has conducted numerous studies to document the fact that WTE
communities achieve recycling rates that are comparable to or higher than those achieved by
communities with robust recycling programs. However, the landfill disposal rates of WTE
communities and communities with zero waste and/or aggressive recycling programs have not
been documented for comparative purposes.