Earth Day this year is on April 22, 2015. With Earth Day just around the corner, these cities have the right idea. They’re increasing recycling rates, implementing policies that are good for the environment, and heading toward zero waste.

Zero Waste in San Francisco, Calfornia

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San Francisco is well-known for their high recycling rates and they plan to be zero waste by 2020. The city is the first to require that everybody, businesses and residents alike, must separate their trash into recycling and compost material. If all materials are disposed of in the proper bin, San Francisco can easily see their diversion rate jump up to 90%. In order to get up to 100% zero waste, it will require state legislation and partnering with producers. They city thinks it is possible and they hope to be the first to become completely waste free.

Zero Waste in Austin, Texas

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Austin’s goal is to reduce the amount of trash that is sent to landfills by 90% before 2040. They have excellent recycling and composting programs in place to set residents up for the best possible success. You can get ReBlend paint, made from paint that had been disposed of at hazardous waste centers. The city offers rebates to businesses to start, expand, or improve their recycling composting, or zero waste programs.

 “Austin’s green reputation is based in no small part on the way that the entire community embraces sustainability.  The City of Austin supports the efforts of community groups, schools, churches, businesses, and non-profits to celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Perhaps more importantly, we support actions individual Austinites take to make every day Earth Day, to conserve water, be more energy efficient, reduce waste, and use alternative transportation all year long.” – Lucia Athens, LEED AP Chief Sustainability Officer

Zero Waste in Oakland, California

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Oakland surpassed a mandate to divert 50% of waste in 2006, but those numbers began to slow. Oakland revamped the plan and is now working to reduce the amount of annual waste to 40,000 tons by 2020, equal to a 90% reduction. Its Strategic Plan has a few main components. The city plans to expand and improve recycling programs, adopt new waste disposal rules, preserve land, advocate for manufacturer responsibility, and educate the public about its Zero Waste Sustainability Agenda.

Zero Waste in Kaua’i, Hawaii

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Kaua’i adopted a Zero Waste Resolution in 2011 that aims to meet a goal of 70% diversion by the year 2023. It may not be the highest, but it is a great goal with these initiatives being more grassroots than city-wide. There are zero waste organizations, such as Zero Waste Kauai, that actively pursue zero waste strategies to help meet that goal. Initiatives include introducing new recycling images to help guide people with using the bins correctly.

“Our goal in developing and creating the image-based signage is to guide individuals at that crucial moment, when they are standing next to a trash can or recycle bin, and are looking for direction,” – Laura Kelly, recycling specialist

Zero Waste in Carrboro, North Carolina

Carrboro zero waste

Carrboro has been ahead of the curve. As other cities are trying to figure out zero waste programs, this small town has had one in place since 1998. In 2012, it was estimated that only 20% of their waste was recyclable materials, and the city plans to reduce that number even further. Carrboro is looking into ways to cut down on wasteful materials, such as junk mail, and ways to improve recycling streams.

Zero Waste in Berkeley, California

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Berkeley has great recycling services provided by the city as well as zero waste programs and services. All businesses are required to have recycling collection, and all multi-family homes are required to provide organics collection for food scraps.

Zero Waste in San Antonio, Texas

san antonio zero waste

San Antonio aims to reduce their “waste” by 90%. This means that 90% of waste will not end up in a landfill or incinerator. Instead, it will be recycled, reused, composted, or reduced in some way. This city is ahead of many others, and realizes that it is not just the waste of consumer goods that needs to be reduced, but the energy and materials that go into making products. There is a “Pathway to Zero Waste” plan that will ensure all families have proper access to recycling programs to make the waste reduction a success.

Zero Waste in Seattle, Washington

seattle zero waste

Seattle is a great example of a zero waste city. It aims to be recycling 70% of waste by 2025. The city has its own zero waste strategy to help guide planning. Some of the next steps include unnecessary waste, such as phone books, plastic bags, and junk mail. Long term goals hope to ban more items from the landfills, such as carpet and construction materials. Instead, these items will be encouraged to be recycled. Other efforts will work to bring organics recycling to not just single residents, but multi-family homes.

Zero Waste in Boulder, Colorado

boulder zero waste

Boulder has goals to become a zero waste city by diverting 85% of waste from the landfills. Instead, this waste would be given a second life through recycling, composting, or reusing. They are updating the Zero Waste Strategic Plan and exploring options to improve recycling in businesses and composting in restaurants. Their Community Working Group collaborates on important topics, like valuable new waste services, beneficial training, and how the zero waste plan can complement current business practices.

Zero Waste in Fort Collins, Colorado

fort collins zero waste

Fort Collins has been exceeding expectations for waste reduction, and they now have a goal to be zero waste by 2030. After a long planning process, the city put together a plan that includes 11 new waste reduction goals that reflect key community values. Some of these include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding recycling and composting programs, utilizing waste-to-energy facilities, creating appropriate collection systems, and improving waste reduction.