Every community can take steps on the road to Zero waste. [www.ecocycle.com] To be considered a Zero Waste community does not require achieving “absolute zero” to disposal, but it does require a total commitment to pursuing zero along these three paths:
Communities embracing Zero Waste planning will create more jobs, better protect the environment and expand their local economy to a greater degree than either landfill or incineration systems would. Already today there are communities around the world approaching and surpassing 70% discard recovery rates, and realizing these triple bottom line benefits. This plan will help your community get going, and who knows how far YOUR COMMUNITY can get in ten years?
WasteCap Nebraska is dedicated to helping communities realize their Zero Waste goals. This page provides an overview of the steps needed to get closer to Zero Waste.
The Eco-Cycle Bridge Strategy to a Zero Waste Community is a ten-year, three phase, 25-point plan that serves as a roadmap for how a community can transition from a world dominated by waste disposal—using landfills and incinerators—to one dominated by resource recovery—using recycling, composting, reuse and waste reduction.
Phase One: the “Access” Years 1-4: 50% recovery
Goals: Develop infrastructure and provide access to recycling services across all sectors.
Phase Two: the “Participation” Years 5-8: 70% recovery
Goals: Build participation in a source separation society and target hard-to-recycle material streams.
Phase Three: The “Zero Waste” Years 9-10+: 90% recovery
Goals: Reduce per-capita discard generation and phase “waste” items out of the community.
PAYT means that trash service is charged based on the “unit” of service provided rather than a set fixed fee. Paying for what you throw away gives a financial incentive to reduce waste and increase recycling. Most utilities charge for usage, why should trash service be any different?
For an in-depth look at PAYT, visit the EPA’s dedicated site.
Recycling reduces environmental pressures twofold by lessening both the impact of landfilling waste, and the need for raw materials. Increasing recycling rates in the US to 75% could create over 1 million new jobs.
Convenience affects recycling rates. People generally recycle if it’s not harder or more expensive than throwing it away. Adding a curbside recycling program can increase diversion rates by 6-8%, and adding curbside yard waste pickup increases another 8-9%. Curbside programs that collect more materials, are single steam (mixed or comingled recycling) and have more frequent service all significantly increase diversion rates.
Universal Recycling gives people an opportunity to recycle wherever they are: At home, school, work, events, businesses, and in the government. Curbside recycling can make recycling more accessible, and serve as first step to educating people on the importance of recycling and leading to behavior change.
Many cities have now implemented not only curbside recycling, but also organics composting pickup. Cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Berkeley and New York City have curbside organic waste collection.
About 20% of what goes to the landfill is food. Food waste breaks down in landfills and produces large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Organic materials in landfills are one of the largest contributors of methane gas, and are also some of the easiest materials to recycle and compost.
About 40% of the food that is grown in the US is never eaten, while millions of Americans are still food insecure. Many people are working to distribute edible food to more hungry people, yet much good food still ends up in the landfill. The first steps in food waste reduction are source reduction (from production, distribution and consumer losses) and redistribution, getting food to those who need it. Grocery stores and restaurants can donate their excess food to redistributors like Saving Grace, Food not Bombs, and FoodNet.
Food that cannot be eaten can be composted. Compost is a nutrient-rich soil amendment or fertilizer made from decomposed organic materials such as food, manure, yard waste and other compostable materials. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming, and can enhance soil structure, microbial activity, fertility and water retention while decreasing erosion and runoff.
Composting Service Providers:
For more Composting resources, visit our Individuals page
Nationally, over 2.4 million tons of consumer electronics were landfilled in 2012. Electronics have valuable rare earth metals that are becoming more scarce worldwide and can leach toxic chemicals into groundwater. Electronics recycling has increased to almost 30% in 2012, yet there’s still millions of tons of valuable resources going to landfills every year.
A Zero Waste strategy includes centers for hard to recycle materials that would be able to process complex or hazardous materials, diverting them from the landfill.
Some things are hard to recycle because there are constructed with many different types of materials, or hazardous materials. There are federal and state regulations for disposal of hazardous wastes that could be harmful to human health or the environment. Hazardous materials can be very difficult to recycle, but manufacturers of these products are becoming more involved with end-of-life product recapture through public-private partnerships in product stewardship [Link].
Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility in Omaha Under the Sink
Donate your electronics to Goodwill or Cross Training Center (Omaha).
Lincoln: Secure Recyclers, 123 System Solutions
Nebraska City: NebWorks, Inc.
Staples has a technology Trade-In program that can get you store credit for old electronics. Best Buy will recycle most electronics and large appliances for free. Check Call2Recycle for batteries and cellphone recyclers near you.
Construction and demolition (C&D) waste makes up about 40% of the waste stream in the US (EPA, 2005). [Most of C&D waste is disposed in special C&D landfills that are regulated by state and local governments, so that federal estimates of disposal volumes are based on very limited data.] The major components of C&D waste include concrete, wood, metal, asphalt, brick and stone, which can be recycled into other useful materials. C&D recycling rates vary widely by state, ranging from 10 to over 90 per cent, with the national average around 73% (National Demolition Association, 2005). In Nebraska, 70-80% of trash loads entering the municipal waste stream contained C&D materials (DEQ 2009).
New state-level regulations and building standards like LEED are increasing the recycling rate of C&D waste. New industries are developing for the reuse of deconstructed buildings and recycling of materials for a variety of uses. In Nebraska, we have Nebraska Materials Exchange;
In other cities:
Habitat for Humanity HomeStore in Fremont (402) 721-8771
Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Grand Island (308) 385-5082
A Zero Waste strategy includes creating the networks and infrastructure needed for reuse and recycling of construction and demolition materials. WasteCap Nebraska staff are certified in C&D waste management and can help your next project get closer to zero waste.
Other sustainable Construction and Demolition resources in Nebraska: