What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is a philosophy and a goal. Only by “closing the loop” can we hope to develop a sustainable economy. The idea is to reduce consumption as much as possible by using design-for-environment in all products and their packaging, and to make all products and packaging recyclable.

Achieving Zero Waste depends on designing products and industrial processes so that their components can be dismantled, repaired, reused and/or recycled. Zero Waste means linking communities, businesses, and industries so that one’s waste becomes another’s feedstock. It means preventing pollution at its source. It means new local jobs in communities throughout British Columbia.

Image from the Zero Waste International Alliance licensed under Creative Commons

Zero Waste Definitions

Zero Waste International Alliance

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.

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.

Metro Vancouver Zero Waste 2040

A zero waste community is a community that supports sustainable resource use, a healthy economy, affordability, vibrant and inclusive neighbourhoods, and equal opportunity through the elimination of solid waste.

As a city we’ve committed to:

  • Conserve resources
  • Prevent waste of all types, including wasted food at all points between farm and table
  • Compost inedible food or convert it into fuel
  • Repair and maintain products and materials to extend their lives
  • Share, reuse, and refurbish products and materials before recycling them

Zero Waste Initiatives in BC

Share Reuse Repair Initiative

This initiative of the Makeway Shared Platform focuses on cultivating the cultural and consumer demand for the supply of circular goods and services as well as increasing the supply of those goods and services.  They work with businesses, governments, and communities to enhance lighter living for all.

Zero Waste BC

Zero Waste BC is a non-profit society that has been championing Zero Waste since 2008.  They work on a variety of projects including writing collaborative reports, providing feedback and consultation to industry and government, convening community conversations, and giving presentations on a variety of topics.


Exchange-a-Blade is just one example of a business working towards Zero Waste.  For over 40 years, EAB has run an exchange program for saw blades and other power tool accessories; by remanufacturing and reusing blades over and over again, they have saved countless tonnes of metal from going into the landfill.

Other examples of businesses that we know include:


Grocery stores that focus on Zero Waste are also known as refilleries because they commonly eliminate packaging by using a variety of reusable containers.  They often go much further than that by working directly with local suppliers, decreasing or eliminating their carbon emissions, and giving back to their communities.

Zero Waste and the Circular Economy

Both concepts share similar principles and goals but are considered different in some ways.  Click on the button below to learn more about the circular economy or continue to the Resources below for more about Zero Waste.

Zero Waste Resources

National Zero Waste Council Circular Cities Summary (2019)
National Zero Waste Council Circular Economy Business Toolkit (2021)
Zero Waste BC: A Zero Waste Agenda for BC (2021)