Considerations for Informed Pursuit of Zero Waste: Lessons from Two Case Studies
Thangavelu, Jennifer Anne
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Starting in the early 2000s, a number of U.S. communities have adopted "zero waste" commitments to reduce waste as much as possible through recycling, composting, and other means. Little in-depth information exists about the impetus for or efficacy of these efforts. The author sought to build knowledge on the topic by conducting case studies of two communities: the zero waste efforts of Boulder, Colorado, and the Zero Waste Zones established in Atlanta. The two cases presented an interesting contrast, in terms of sector driving zero waste: public in Boulder, and private in Atlanta. The study aimed to use the experiences of these two communities, supplemented with background research on materials management and application of relevant theory, to develop a set of considerations for more informed pursuit of zero waste. The author gathered qualitative data by conducting unstructured interviews of the actors involved with the zero waste efforts in Boulder and Atlanta. Interview questions concerned, e.g., zero waste goals and plans, the impacts of zero waste on the business or organization, and influential individuals or organizations. The study produced the following set of considerations: Definition of waste determines priorities and impacts of zero waste efforts; responsibility for waste arbitrarily resides with consumers and local government instead of producers; the private, public, and nonprofit sectors each play important roles in waste reduction; local government should not bear the full burden of materials management; and state and federal government can offer useful policy tools to advance zero waste.
- Masters Theses