Zero Waste

Zero Waste Mountain View logo

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste is a fresh approach to waste management and the use of resources. It goes beyond the “end-of-the-line” treatment of waste and promotes not only the three “R’s” (reduce, reuse, recycle), but also focuses on a “whole system” approach to the use of resources including composting and conservation (rot, restore).

Zero Waste seeks to eliminate negative impacts of designing, producing, using, and discarding of products and packaging:

  • Reduce resource use
  • Reuse products and materials
  • Minimize or eliminate discard of “waste”
  • Reduce production of greenhouse gases
  • Minimize production of toxic materials and provide safe discard of toxics

History and framework

Mountain View created a Source Reduction & Recycling Element in 1999 as required by the State of California to identify the various waste reduction, reuse, recycling, compost and other programs to divert waste away from the landfill.  Over the years, this guide has helped us to create new programs and services, and prepare for new collection, processing and landfill service agreements. 

Progress is measured through Calrecycle's Annual Jurisdictional Diversion Report.  Mountain View has always exceeded the State's minimum requirements, achieving 52 percent diversion for calendar year 2002, 72% in 2006, and 78 percent for 2017.  These requirements are now expressed in per capita, or pounds per person per day, based on either population or employment.  For example, for calendar year 2017, the State's target (disposal limit) for Mountain View was 7.8 pounds per person per day based on population.  Mountain View achieved a 3.4 pound rate, well below the State's target (disposal limit).  

In 2009, the Mountain View City Council adopted an Environmental Sustainability Action Plan that calls for, among other actions, the creation of a Zero Waste Plan. The creation of this plan was one of 89 recommendations presented to the Council in the September 2008 final report of the Mountain View Sustainability Task Force.  Meeting documents and reports are available here.


The Zero Waste Plan builds upon these earlier efforts, and seeks to further reduce the per capita disposal rate for both residential and commercial waste.  The Plan also addresses climate change by including waste reduction strategies to reduce carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gas.


people sorting recycling Measuring Zero Waste

As a first step in the process, Mountain View conducts a waste characterization study which examines what types of materials our community disposes (waste composition), and whether these materials can be diverted from the waste stream through increased recycling, waste reduction, composting, and other diversion programs. Such programs conserve landfill space and natural resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Studies are conducted about every 10 years in preparation for new collection, processing, and landfill service agreements.

Zero Waste Education

The following documents help educate residents and businesses about Zero Waste and more will be posted as the plan evolves.