About the Zero Waste Advisory Group
The Zero Waste Advisory Group is comprised of entrepreneurs, researchers, advocates, policymakers, and community leaders dedicated to building local, circular supply chains that will first minimize and second make productive and sustainable use of our state’s discards (formerly known as "trash").
Our purpose is to advise local businesses in our evolving regional economies about ways to reduce waste and ultimately to facilitate the creation of social ventures engaged in reuse, repair, recycling, composting and manufacturing to cost-effectively implement reduction strategies and utilize discards to create jobs and economic development opportunities while eliminating the negative impacts of wasting and extraction on people and the environment.
This project hopes to demonstrate that it is possible to decouple waste generation from economic growth and displace the need for extraction with a closed-loop approach, ultimately eliminating our reliance on the broken and unjust system of incinerators, landfills and the exporting of waste.
Every year in Pennsylvania, we generate almost 9 million tons of municipal solid waste, representing about 1,383 pounds of trash per person per year. Currently, the majority of this waste makes its way to our state’s landfills or incinerators, where it not only pollutes our air and water, but also disproportionally harms communities of color and low-income communities where waste facilities are primarily located. When you look at the upstream impact of what we throw away, including extraction, manufacturing and transportation, the products, packaging and food we consume represents 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US. This embedded energy in our discards is too valuable to waste, let alone the harm caused when we burn or bury trash.
Recycling was born from a grass roots movement accountable to the community and motivated to address the issues of waste, however, its connection to environmental impact and societal benefit has unfortunately degraded over the last 20 years. As communities relinquished control of their programs, recycling became more about “convenience” and high diversion rates and less about quality and impact. Decisions were driven by waste haulers interested in protecting their profits from disposal and packaging manufactures seeking to justify a system of unsustainable consumption. This mentality ultimately led to China’s “National Sword” ban on importing recycling, a major disruption and wake up call to the fact that we need to fix recycling. Now, as the nation reels from the financial impact of the recycling market crash, we have a choice to prop up the existing broken system of “make-take-waste” or instead regain control of our community’s resources by investing in locally controlled zero waste businesses and infrastructure.
Building local zero waste supply chains is a powerful intersectional strategy addressing climate change, clean air and water, economic development, equity, and social justice. A zero waste, regenerative economy displaces the need for the continued extraction of fossil fuels and natural resources and eliminates the need for unjust disposal options. Recycling, composting, reuse and repair businesses minimize and utilize discards to benefit our community while creating 9-30 times as many jobs as wasting. The recycling and reuse industry in PA already employs over 66,000 people, with total sales receipts of over $30 billion per year. Together we can seize the opportunity to achieve zero waste in Pennsylvania. – Alex Danovitch
What We Do
What citizens can do to reduce waste
- Buy less.
- Compost food waste at home or with a compost service. ( we will soon list local compost services in our state.)
- Use a refillable water bottle.
- Use a refillable coffee mug.
- Use reusable utensils when eating take-out food. (Bamboo travel sets are available.)
- Bring refillable containers when picking up take-out food.
- If a straw is necessary, use a paper or reusable straw.
- Buy bulk food and store in reusable jars.
- Reduce food waste by buying only what you know you will eat.
- Use reusable shopping bags, including smaller vegetable bags.
- Recycle properly, according to local instructions.