Zero Waste

Zero waste is a revolution in the way we approach our finite natural resources

With a material economy responsible for 70% of GHG emissions , zero waste is a climate game-changer. It is a roadmap to systemic change powered by regenerative practices and principles in the waste sector and beyond, that not only benefit the environment, but also create meaningful jobs, resilient cities, and more equitable societies. 

In a world that creates billions of tons of waste a year, zero waste is a revolution in the way we approach our finite natural resources and operate within planetary boundaries. 

GAIA has long been at the forefront of zero waste efforts around the world, and our work on zero waste has been instrumental in the growing recognition of the waste sector’s powerful role in mitigating climate change, particularly through methane reductions. 

Today, Our Work on Zero Waste Focuses on:

Building a New Status Quo Through Systems Change

The current extractive system favors the unlimited extraction of raw materials, perpetuates the waste of natural resources, and sacrifices people’s health and well-being in favor of unchecked consumerism. The status quo is harming our health and our planet, and threatening future life. GAIA focuses on creating systemic change through zero waste by transforming the way we use materials, and by advancing a new regenerative cycle that places people and planet first. 

Through policy, finance, and narrative shifts, GAIA creates enabling conditions for systemic support of zero waste systems. Mobilizing our vast global network of members and allies, we advocate for zero waste policy and finance, focusing on: 

  • international and local funding of zero waste systems
  • zero waste roadmaps and regulatory frameworks that support their implementation
  • inclusion of zero waste goals in local and national climate plans, such as Nationally Determined Contributions and methane reduction roadmaps. 

We also commission reports and research that substantiate the need for and efficacy of zero waste systems. 

Protecting the definition and principles behind zero waste is also part of GAIA’s mission, as it is critical to safeguarding zero waste’s longevity and legitimacy as a solution. Preventing greenwashing through clear messaging around zero waste will help ensure that investments and efforts are effectively directed towards solutions that truly prioritize people and planet in the long term.

Building Zero Waste Cities

Over 550 municipalities around the world are already taking steps to transition into zero waste systems — and seeing its ecological, economic, and social benefits. Local transformation of cities and municipalities towards zero waste systems is at the heart of GAIA’s work: we provide dedicated support to both the expansion and the durability of zero waste projects all over the world. 

To help municipalities implement zero waste systems, we focus on five key pillars: 

​​Setting a goal to end waste disposal in dumps, landfills, and incinerators

Holding producers accountable to design out waste and minimize material use

Encouraging responsible consumption that stays within ecological limits

Building systems and infrastructure to recover resources at their highest and best use

Prioritizing social and environmental justice, with a particular focus on waste pickers and frontline communities

By providing technical assistance to municipalities, investing in a wide range of case studies that provide replicable solutions for varied local scenarios, and producing certification systems for zero waste cities and zero waste businesses, GAIA is catalyzing the global shift towards zero waste.

Building a Zero Waste Movement 

The global transition towards zero waste is a long journey that demands global support, sustained effort, and solidarity across movements. 

We power the zero waste movement by:

Providing support to all players pushing for zero waste systems—from citizens and community organizers to decision-makers and officials on the local, national, and global level. 

Facilitating mainstream adoption of zero waste. By building more technical capacity among  

GAIA members, local officials, waste management consultants, and other zero waste practitioners, we help solidify zero waste practices as the most convenient and effective waste management approach. Our Zero Waste Academies, Zero Waste Master Plans, and practical tools for implementers are just a few of our technical capacity-building resources available for those looking to make zero waste possible in their cities. At GAIA, all of our knowledge is founded on research and on-the-ground expertise. Part of our mission in this regard includes acknowledging and amplifying local, community, and indigenous knowledge, as well as learning by doing.

Fostering solidarity by expanding our network and relationships with grassroots and allied organizations such as the International Alliance of Waste Pickers, the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, and climate justice organizations. Whether partnering with waste pickers, fostering national alliances, or working with different sectors impacted by the effects of climate change,  building strong networks is key to maximizing local impact, reaching national bodies, and increasing community engagement and public support for zero waste in order to ultimately create systemic change.  



GAIA members around the world work to make zero waste not only attainable, but also a reality. These are their testimonies.

“Zero waste is an unstoppable movement. We are hopeful that it will become an undeniable reality.” Susana Fonseca, ZERO Portugal
This is the default image
“We want to create models that have economic and social benefits to the community.”
Mitshuhisa Okuno, Zero Waste Japan
“No community, anywhere in the world, is disposable. We need to be thinking more collectively.”
Sue Maxwell, Zero Waste British Columbia