What is Zero Waste?

The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) is the source of the only peer-reviewed, internationally-accepted definition of Zero Waste. Revised for brevity on October 29, 2018, this is ZWIA’s current definition of Zero Waste:


Zero Waste:
The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials without burning them, and without discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.


With the adoption of the Missoula Zero Waste Resolution in February 2016, the City of Missoula adopted an earlier and lengthier version of the ZWIA definition of Zero Waste. Adherence to this definition aligns the City’s ZERO by FIFTY initiative with the global Zero Waste movement and guides future Zero Waste efforts in the city.

Definition of Zero Waste

ZWIA recognizes communities and businesses that divert 90% or more of their waste stream from landfills and incinerators as Zero Waste. As a building materials reuse center, we estimate that, based on our total throughput, 94% of materials are reused, recycled, or composted (2016). We strive to reduce the amount of materials we send to the Missoula Landfill and actively seek new applications for our residuals.


Communities worldwide are committing to Zero Waste goals. These communities are creating business opportunities, implementing Zero Waste programs and infrastructure, raising public awareness and participation in waste reduction activities, and building local climate resilience. From Missoula to Manila and countless places in between, individuals are adopting Zero Waste practices, habits, and lifestyles while small businesses are helping lead the way with services to make culture change possible.