By October 24, 2019 No Comments

At the second and final Zero Waste Summit follow-up meeting, Boston leaders identify Zero Waste Guiding Principles.

Boston’s Climate Action Plan spells out strategies for cutting emissions in our city, and moving toward zero waste is critical to that mission. It requires all sectors of our city to decrease the environmental footprint of the “stuff” we produce, use, and throw away – during every stage of its lifetime. (Photo: City leaders and members of the Boston Recycling Coalition discuss how Boston can achieve zero waste)

Zero Waste Municipal Leaders Summit

This spring, the City of Boston and the Boston Recycling Coalition partnered in convening the first-ever Zero Waste Municipal Leaders’ Summit to discuss new strategies the City can launch in order to reduce climate impacts, improve public health, and create quality green jobs for Bostonians. At the Summit, representatives from three leading Zero Waste cities — San Francisco, Austin, and Los Angeles — shared their experience in developing and implementing Zero Waste plans for their cities.

Participants discussed how Boston captures economic gains with its waste-to-energy systems, and how to best support industry workers. They also discussed the benefits that zero waste will have for public health and the creation of green jobs. They explored technologies like anaerobic digestion of organic waste, financing zero waste programs and education, and using recycled materials to spark local manufacturing.

Attendees reviewed the goals they discussed at the Summit, finalized the steps they need to take, and identified which parties are responsible for each step. By the end of the follow-up meeting, members had refined their zero waste guiding principles, which will be submitted to department heads for approval and then presented to City leadership. The City will continue its relationship with the Boston Recycling Coalition throughout the next steps of this planning process. (Photo: City Soil manages the City of Boston’s compost site)

Thinking big picture

When we think about waste, we often picture trash sitting on a curb. We think about styrofoam takeout boxes, worn out t-shirts, and broken appliances.Their use has been exhausted, and someone is coming to take them away. Over the City of Boston has increased the amount and types of materials residents can recycle, as well making the service more convenient, and will continue to do so as it moves toward zero waste.


While the disposal and management of waste does contribute to emissions and toxic pollution, far more is produced during the extraction or harvest of raw materials and the production of those takeout boxes, t-shirts, and appliances. In other words: we need to look at every stage of a product’s life cycle in order to achieve zero waste. That’s why the City is considering all city sectors throughout this process – including housing, education, and workforce development. In order to improve the environmental footprints of production, consumption, and waste, the City of Boston is thinking big picture and taking a holistic approach. (Photo: Project Oscar bins make composting easier in Boston’s neighborhoods)

The Boston Recycling Coalition uses this definition of zero waste from the Zero Waste International Alliance.

Global leadership

This is an important step in our city’s mission to reduce waste, and coincides with Boston’s growing global climate leadership. Next Summer, Boston will host the US-China Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Summit, which will bring local and city leaders from all over the world together to discuss the power and responsibility cities have to lead in climate action. By exploring best practices for zero waste, Boston will be able to demonstrate how important responsible waste management is to climate action on a large stage, and encourage our international partners to continue to improve waste management in their cities as well.

The Zero Waste Municipal Leaders Summit and follow-up meetings were coordinated and funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Attendees included representatives from the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency; the City of Boston; the Boston Recycling Coalition; the Boston Recycling Coalition Zero Waste Task Force; the Boston City Council; Boston Public Schools; the Boston Public Health Commission; the Boston Housing Authority; the Mass Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health; MassPIRG; the Cities of Somerville, Cambridge, Lawrence, Lynn, Quincy, Lowell, Chelsea, New Bedford, Newton, Los Angeles, Austin, and San Francisco; the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District; the Town of Brookline; Newton City Council; Clean Water Action; Toxics Action Center; Boston University; Youth on Board; Zero Waste USA; the City of Los Angeles; the City of Austin; the City of San Francisco; and Perlmutter Associates.