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. A revised definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance on August 12, 2009 is posted below. This is intended to assist businesses and communities in defining their own goals for Zero Waste.

“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.”

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 definition is intended to be a living document


Incinerator technologies such as plasma, pyrolysis and gasification do have some different processes when compared to conventional mass-burn incineration. While mass-burn incinerators combust the waste in a single chamber, these incinerators typically heat the waste materials at high temperatures in one chamber with less oxygen present, and then burn the waste gases in a separate chamber connected to a smoke stack. Regardless of the technology used, the core destructive impacts of all types of incinerators remain the same.


Toxic materials harm animals and humans, pollute air, water, and soil. Toxic materials are substances that may cause harm to an individual if it enters the body.
Toxic materials are everywhere – from heavy metals in electronics to flame retardants in furniture and clothing, pesticides in our food, and harmful chemicals in plastics. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products, for instance, are possible to avoid, and they are dangerous to our health and environment from start to finish – in the factory, at home, and in the trash – releasing poisonous chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects all along their lifecycle. There are more than 100,000 synthetic chemicals in use today, only a small portion of these have ever been tested for human health impacts.
We cannot achieve Zero Waste if the products we create and use are contaminated with toxic materials. No matter how much we reuse or recycle, if our products are toxic, we still end up with polluted bodies in a polluted environment.
But there is hope! This is a totally avoidable situation. Companies can replace these chemicals with safer alternatives, but voluntary action by a few companies is not enough to remove hazardous chemicals from the market. Our governments have a responsibility to protect public health by ensuring that all products are made in a way that’s safe for the environment and human health.