Governments Stuggle with Zero Waste Planning, Policy, and Implemention
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With growing concern over the shortage of landfill space and the health hazards of waste incineration, governments are looking towards sustainable waste management processes for the health of their communities. Zero waste is the goal to direct 100 percent of waste from landfills and incinerators, which is ultimately the most sustainable waste management strategy. Many governments have been working towards zero waste but none have achieved 100 percent waste diversion. Using a comparative context, it is the goal of this research to determine what planning practices are shared across varying levels of governments and from diverse geographic locations to determine what obstacles are preventing them from achieving 100 percent waste diversion. This research builds on the discoveries of each preceding finding and topics of this research include zero waste planning, waste management and processing methods, best practices for zero waste management, public outreach, public resource requirements for a zero waste community, and the role of the producer in the waste management cycle. The first section compares the zero waste plans of three American cities to reveal common best practices. Success was shared through outreach and the availability of public resources. The cities ultimately struggled to separate and process the waste after it had been collected. Source seperation was deemed a key feature of the zero waste plans in the near-zero waste communities analyzed in the second section. These effective governments still struggled to process some of the materials because the products in their waste stream were not manufactured to be recycled. The final section discusses extended producer responsibility and the role of the manufacturer in a zero waste cycle. The chapter reviews the effectiveness of a nation-wide extended producer responsibility plan to determine whether federal support gave municipalities the ability to manage the types of waste being produced, sold, and processed in their communities. This thesis concludes in stating that zero waste may be possible, but only with complete citizen participation, full implementation by the local government, legislative support from overarching governments, and with the manufacturers’ involvement in waste processing and/or compatible product and packaging design.