Zero waste pop-up event staff

Zero Waste: Priorities and background

Why Zero Waste 2040?

Vancouver residents, businesses, and institutions threw away about 371,000 tonnes of garbage in 2016.

Most of this “waste” is valuable resources that could have been conserved, reused, recycled, or composted.

When resources are diverted from landfill or incinerator, we reduce environmental risks and create social and economic benefits.

To conserve scarce resources

When we conserve, reuse, recycle, and recover resources we already have, we keep their value and shift towards a circular economy that uses waste as a resource and, above all, towards a zero-waste future.

To limit climate change

Avoiding disposal at landfills and incinerators limits the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change.

To extend the landfill's use

Fully-using resources helps conserve valuable landfill space.

To create social and economic opportunities

Connecting people through zero waste initiatives can inspire greater community involvement, partnerships, innovation, and sharing of materials. The economic potential of recovering and re-selling valuable materials represents new business opportunities that can help to grow a local, circular economy.

A bulldozer drives over a large mound of garbage at the Vancouver Landfill with the North Shore Mountains in the background on a cloudy day

Achieving zero waste is complex. It involves change by multiple stakeholders and across organizational and geographical boundaries. It’s beyond the ability of any one organization.

Our approach – functional, enabling, and adaptive

  1. Lead by example
  2. Prioritize managing resources based on the zero waste approach for Vancouver
  3. Apply a systems approach to find opportunities
  4. Use principles of a circular economy to help shift to zero waste
  5. Expect a shifting role and plan for continuous learning


A drawing of the life cycle of a wooden pallet that shoes the different stages in the pallet's creation, use, and disposal

Our priorities

Build a zero waste community

A core priority of our plan is building a zero waste community where:

  1. Residents and businesses value materials as finite resources
  2. Consumption of resources is reduced to the fullest extent possible
  3. Resources that must be used are kept in a circular economy
  4. Community networks involve robust sharing, reuse, and recycling systems
  5. Actions to achieve zero waste result in co-benefits to the environment, the economy, and Vancouver

Value resources

Wasted resources currently exist everywhere, as a result of the food we eat or don’t eat, products we buy, and buildings and assets we construct.

We believe that resources should be conserved and reused, not wasted.

In cases where resources can't be reused, the value from this waste should extracted by recycling, composting, and producing renewable energy.

Support a circular economy

Adapting to a circular economy may be one of the best ways to stop wasting resources. In doing so, we can create economic opportunities, reduce our exposure to long-term risks, protect the environment, and strengthen our community.

To evaluate the impacts and opportunities of a circular economy, it helps to apply the life cycle approach, described below.


What's a circular economy?

Circular economy
"regenerative by design"
Linear economy
  • Keeps products, components, and materials at their highest value, at all times
  • Prevents waste through new and innovative business models or through improved design – either for disassembly or longevity
  • Maximizes the continuation of a product’s life through enhanced re-use, repair, or remanufacture
  • Improves end-of-life processing and resource recovery
  • Relies on large amounts of relatively cheap materials and inputs to make goods and services
  • Produces a lot of waste

Source: National Zero Waste Council