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

Plan Adoption

On March 24, 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.

As a first step in this process, Mountain View conducted a waste characterization study which examined 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.

people sorting recycling Measuring Zero Waste

To measure progress, the Plan uses diversion rates calculated by the State of California (CalRecycle). The current State mandate requires all communities to divert at least 50 percent of waste away from the landfill through recycling, waste reduction, composting and other diversion programs or be fined $10,000 per day. In 2006, Mountain View diverted 72 percent of the community's waste away from landfills, the second highest diversion rate in the County. By 2015, the community has achieved a 77 percent diversion rate.

CalRecycle adopted a new method of expressing diversion rates, translating the 50 percent goal into a disposal limit of 7.8 pounds per capita per day (based on population). In 2009, Mountain View's disposal rate was only 4.0 pounds per capita per day, well below the State's target.

The Zero Waste Plan seeks to further reduce the per capita disposal rate for both residential and commercial waste. In addition, the City has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Therefore, the Plan also addresses climate change by including waste reduction strategies to reduce carbon emissions. 

Zero Waste Education

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