America has the tools to shift away from this wasteful, polluting and costly linear system to a circular material economy that produces zero waste, conserves natural resources, and limits pollution and global warming emissions.
Efforts to reduce waste should prioritize reducing material consumption first and foremost; reusing, refurbishing and repairing everything possible; and recycling or composting all remaining materials.
By taking the following steps, the U.S. can incentivize the shift to a circular economy in which zero waste is created. These steps can be promoted through a variety of policies and programs at the local, state and national levels.
1. Set a goal to achieve zero waste.
2. Require producers to take responsibility for their products during their entire life cycles.
3. Price goods to reflect the environmental and public health impacts of their production.
4. Make recycling and composting mandatory, universally accessible and less expensive than garbage disposal.
5. Require that goods be built to last and easy to repair, reuse, recycle or compost.
6. Ban the sale of single-use items that are not easily recyclable or compostable, including packaging, plastic bags and food service ware.
7. Invest in repair, reuse, recycling and composting facilities to support a circular economy.
8. Require producers to use recycled and reused materials in new products, and encourage businesses and governments to set procurement standards for recycled materials.
9. As waste is eliminated, ensure that all remaining waste is disposed of safely.
10. Oppose the construction, expansion and subsidization of landfills, incinerators and plastic-to-fuel conversion facilities marketed as “chemical recycling.”