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

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.  Prior to these plans, the City's Source Reduction & Recycling Element provided the guidance for programs and goals.  The City’s current collection, processing and disposal agreements expire at the end of 2021.

Action Plan 2009
Zero Waste Policy 2018
Zero Waste Plan 2019
Measuring Zero Waste
78% Diversion Rate
Public Input


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.  The Action Plan helped guide development of new programs in conjunction with the renewal of a collection services agreement in 2013.  See the documents and zero waste plan related to the 2013 agreement at this link.

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. 
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.  


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 Action 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 Action 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.    


people sorting recycling

Measuring Zero Waste

As a first step in the process to develop a plan, Mountain View conducts a waste characterization study that 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.  The last study was done in 2010 in preparation for the 2013 collection services agreement.  A new study is being conducted in 2018 in preparation for the collection, processing and disposal agreements, which are set to expire at the end of 2021.

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.  


78% Diversion Rate

Mountain View's progress is significant.  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 achieved a 77 percent diversion rate.  The current diversion rate is 78 percent.  We have a little further to go to meet our 90 percent goal. 

Charting Progress.  To see history of landfill tons by population and employment, and our progress on reducing trash because of the food scraps program, visit this link.

Public Input

After the 2018 waste characterization study is done, the City will hold a Zero Waste Plan Workshop in 2019 to identify the policies, programs and infrastructure needed to achieve the City's goal of 90 percent waste reduction and recycling by 2030.  At the workshop, the City will provide information about our current achievement of 78 percent, present the results of the waste characterization study, and discuss ideas for new or expanded policies, programs, and regional efforts needed in waste prevention, recycling and composting to help us achieve the new goal of 90 percent by 2030.  If you would like to be notified of opportunities to provide feedback, please visit and subscribe to Zero Waste and Service Agreements notifications.

Zero Waste Plan Workshop 2019 Flyer - March 4, 2019 - Thanks for your Input!

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

Final Zero Waste Action Plan - will be posted when available

Zero Waste Education

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