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Arlington, Virginia has been long hailed as a leader in environmental initiatives and in 2015, the county became the first in Virginia to pass a Zero Waste resolution. While Arlington already recycles nearly 47% of trash, the county’s strong commitment to the environment, coupled with a looming increase in trash rates, ignited their movement toward Zero Waste. In efforts to increase recycling rates, Arlington has provided comprehensive residential recycling and waste services, required every business to provide recycling bins, and ordered building and business owners to craft and submit a detailed recycling plan to the county.
On its Zero Waste journey, Missoula, Montana lags far behind on recycling, recovering only 20% of its total waste. Since 2014, the grassroots citizens group called Zero Waste Missoula has been working to improve Missoula’s low recycling rate and turn the city’s attention to waste reduction. Thanks to this citizens’ advocacy the Missoula City Council passed the first Zero Waste resolution in Montana in 2016 and continues to work on improvements, such as building a composting facility and expanding its curbside recycling to twice-monthly, single stream collection.
In 2006, Boulder’s City Council passed a Zero Waste ordinance and committed to a waste diversion rate of 85% by 2025. Upon adopting curbside recycling and composting programs, in 2014, the city of Boulder saw a significant increase in the amount of waste diverted from landfills. Despite these improvements, Boulder was not seeing strong progress towards its goals, because the commercial sector was lagging behind in increasing their recycling rates. In response, in 2015, Boulder passed a Universal Zero Waste Ordinance (UZWO) to make sure everyone in the community participates equally in waste diversion. Boulder became the third city in the US to require that every home, business and apartment have recycling and composting services.
Zero Waste redesigns our systems and resource use—from product design to disposal—to prevent resource depletion, conserve energy, mitigate climate change, reduce water usage, prevent pollution, and stop ecosystem destruction. This roadmaps provides a guide for individuals to strive towards zero waste within their own communities; the first part of the roadmap walks through what needs to be done, while the next section focuses on how to actually implement policy and infrastructural change through community partnerships and engagement.
When it comes to waste, our choice is simple: Every day we get either closer to or further from a Zero Waste future. We can choose to sustainably use our limited resources, so we can support future generations. We can choose to reduce our climate impact and build resilient communities. We can choose to invest in green jobs and our local economy. Or, we can continue to throw away our "trash" and with it all these opportunities for positive change. That is the essence of the journey and the choices we have to make.