CofC Logo

What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is a goal set by the College of Charleston to eliminate the concept of waste from our processes here on campus. Instead, we must begin to think of the goods that come in and go out of campus as materials and resources that can and should be reused. To achieve Zero Waste, we must begin to move towards cyclical processes that close the loop of production and replenish themselves indefinitely, such as those described in McDonough and Braungart's book Cradle to Cradle 

How is Zero Waste different from recycling?

While recycling is an important component of Zero Waste, the two are very different concepts.  With Zero Waste, we have established a hierarchy for how materials should be dealt with once they have reached their end of use. hierarchy

The first priority becomes waste aversion, or preventing the need for waste in the first place by using products and systems that are designed to be adaptable for use over a long period of time.  

Recycling is lower on the priority list because often times, as is the case with most plastics and paper, the product that is created out of recycled materials is of lower quality or lower use value than the product it came from. Most products can only be recycled so many times and often products that are made from recycled materials are not recyclable themselves. The end result is ultimately the landfill.

Recycling, however, extends the life of the material and is an important intermediary step as we work to develop products and systems that can be reused indefinitely.