Zero Waste

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

Plans & Policies

Development of a Zero Waste Plan is a multi-year effort and is undertaken in preparation for new collection, processing, and landfill service agreements.  The City’s current collection, processing and disposal agreements expire at the end of 2021.  Before a plan can be developed, a study of the community's waste is undertaken to identify opportunities to divert waste from the landfill by new or enhanced waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting programs.  Such programs conserve landfill space and natural resources while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

people sorting recycling

ZERO WASTE Policy 2018

On June 19, 2018, the City Council adopted a Zero Waste Policy.  The policy establishes an overall quantitative goal to reduce the amount of generated and disposed waste such that 90 percent of materials are diverted from landfill by 2030.  Achieving 90 percent diversion is considered "zero waste" and will require actions in addition to programs where the City has direct control over implementing. 

chart showing diversion progressCharting PROGRESS
Mountain View's progress is significant.  In 2006, Mountain View diverted 72 percent of the community's waste away from landfills,  The current diversion rate is 78 percent, the second highest diversion rate in the county.  We have a little further to go to meet our 90 percent goal.  


market value

Some wastes are problematic or have little or zero market value.  Mountain View's trash is sorted to ensure that recyclables are diverted from the landfill and to test-market low or no value materials.  Strict new recycling standards from export markets are also having an impact and require all of us to recycle correctly.  See the Dirty Dozen for more information or visit this page.  


State Legislation Needed

Where the City does not have direct control, State legislation is needed.  For example, changes are required in private-sector practices related to product design, purchasing, use, and “end-of-life” management, whether voluntary or in response to State or national regulatory mandates.  These changes are already beginning to happen (for example, recent California legislation requiring manufacturer responsibility for paint, mattress, and carpet recycling and disposal).  Therefore, the policy calls for City support of legislation and other actions that can result in this “producer responsibility."  See this link to Council Policy K22 Zero Waste.  

ZERO WASTE action PLAN 2019

On September 4, 2018, the City Council approved a consultant contract to prepare a Zero Waste Action Plan in support of the Policy.  The preparation of this plan is being done in advance of updating the City’s current collection, processing and disposal agreements, all of which expire at the end of 2021.  The plan will identify future programs and actions the City can take to reach its Zero Waste goals.  The following steps towards completion of the plan will be taken. As information for each is available, links will be updated or posted below.    

 Public Input

At the Zero Waste Workshop on March 4, 2019, the City provided information about our current achievement of 78 percent diversion of waste from the landfill, and presented the results of the latest Waste Characterization Study.  The City asked participants to identify the policies, programs and infrastructure needed to achieve the City's goal of 90 percent waste reduction and recycling by 2030. 

These items will be summarized in a Draft Zero Waste Action Plan 2019 for City Council review at a public hearing on June 11, 2019.  When the plan is available, you may send comments to or provide at the City Council meeting on June 11, 2019.

  • Draft Zero Waste Action Plan 2019 - will be posted when available.
  • Final Zero Waste Action Plan 2019 - will be posted when available

If you would like to be notified of opportunities to provide feedback, please visit and subscribe to Zero Waste and Service Agreements notifications.