Zero Waste Pasadena 2040

What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is a philosophy and design framework that promotes not only reuse, recycling, and conservation programs, but also, and more importantly, emphasizes sustainability by considering the entire life-cycle of products, processes, and systems. In this Zero Waste Strategic Plan (Zero Waste Plan), we will use the term “Zero Waste” to mean both reducing waste at the source and maximizing diversion from landfills, with the overall goal of striving for Zero Waste.

Zero Waste is not necessarily 100 percent recycling but it shifts the focus to waste reduction, product redesign and elimination of wasteful practices. It is a framework for reducing generation of waste and maximizing diversion, not a strict tonnage goal. By implementing the proposed policies and programs, Pasadena will be moving towards Zero Waste, even though there will still be some residual waste that will be disposed.

Pasadena has already met and exceeded the State of California’s ambitious 50 percent diversion goal and achieved 73 percent diversion in 2010. This Zero Waste Plan is anticipated to accomplish a minimum of 87 percent diversion, which sets Pasadena well on the path to Zero Waste. Pasadena is now poised to move beyond “waste management” to envisioning a world without waste.

Recycling Tree created by Pasadena Unified School District students

The City of Pasadena (City) began its journey on the road to Zero Waste in 2005 with the adoption of the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords, which include a goal of Zero Waste by 2040.

In fall 2011, the City began a planning process to identify the policies, programs, and facilities that will be needed to move as close to Zero Waste as possible by 2040. The Zero Waste Plan is the beginning of a long-term systematic effort to:

  • Reduce the total amount of disposed materials originating within Pasadena
  • Reduce the quantity of disposed materials generated per person within Pasadena
  • Increase the quantity of recyclable and compostable materials as these items are diverted from landfills
  • Support State and federal efforts to build the environmental and social costs into the price of products and packaging and
    require manufacturers to take back products at the end of their useful life.

In developing Pasadena’s Zero Waste Plan, consideration was given to existing programs and the feasibility of undertaking additional initiatives. Community involvement was integral throughout the planning process.

The plan was prepared by the City of Pasadena Department of Public Works with input from businesses, schools and community members, all included as stakeholders in the planning process. These stakeholders participated in the Zero Waste workshops that were held on February 2, May 24 and August 22, 2012.

This plan describes the policies, programs and infrastructure that could be developed to achieve the City’s goal of Zero Waste. To understand the effectiveness of the Zero Waste policies and programs identified through the Zero Waste planning process, the City refined and estimated the diversion potential of 19 Zero Waste initiatives which address each of the generator sectors in Pasadena:

  • Single-family residential – single-family homes and multiplex residences up to four units
  • Commercial and multifamily – businesses and institutions with cart service or bin service and multifamily complexes with five units or more
  • Other – Pasadena residents or businesses (including landscapers and construction companies) hauling materials to
    a landfill or transfer station in their own vehicles

One destination for Pasadena’s waste is disposal in a landfill. Waste can also be redirected or “diverted” from the landfill through activities such as recycling, beneficial reuse and composting.

“Generation” is the sum of tons disposed plus tons diverted and it is used to determine the diversion rate. “Diversion Rate” is the percent of waste diverted from the landfill.

Generation = Disposal + Diversion
Diversion Rate = (Generation – Disposal)/Generation x 100%

For 2010, the State estimated that Pasadena generated as a whole 584,840 tons of waste. Of this total, 152,881 tons were disposed in a landfill and 431,959 tons were diverted, yielding a diversion rate of just over 73 percent for Pasadena.

A portion of Pasadena’s diverted material consisting of green waste, such as tree trimmings, grass clippings and other landscaping materials, is used as alternative daily cover (ADC) at Scholl Canyon landfill. However, based on legislative trends, diversion credit for ADC is likely to be discontinued. The City’s diversion rate would be reduced by approximately 3 percent (or daily per capita disposal would be increased by 0.65 pounds per person per day) if this material is not diverted by other means such as composting. It is therefore in Pasadena’s best interest to develop alternatives for diverting food scraps and other organic and compostable materials.

To plan for Zero Waste, we first need to understand what we throw away. Exhibit ES-1 shows the composition of Pasadena’s disposed materials based on the results of the 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study conducted by CalRecycle. Currently, 77 percent of what is disposed could be recycled or composted and the remaining 23 percent are “no market” materials that cannot be recycled or composted.

Recyclable materials include: paper, plastic, metals, glass, and construction and demolition materials. Compostable materials include: food scraps, yard trimmings, and compostable paper. No market materials (those that cannot be recycled) include: treated wood, composite materials (things stuck to other things) and diapers.

Many cities across the country are adopting Zero Waste Plans to optimize resources and meet ever higher waste diversion goals. In considering Pasadena’s Zero Waste Plan, it is helpful to look at other California cities to gain perspective. Plans vary depending on the initiatives selected, infrastructure available, waste processing opportunities and levels of service provided.

City Baseline Diversion Rate Zero Waste Diversion Goal
Alameda 67% 89%
  • Process mixed waste prior to landfilling (i.e., dirty MRFing)
  • Add materials to recycling & green carts, both residential & commercial
  • Provide commercial technical assistance
  • Advocate for producer responsibility
  • Increase take back programs with local retailers
  • Increase C&D Ordinance requirements
  • Develop social marketing campaign targeting all generator sectors
Los Angeles 76% 90%
  • Implement Pay-As-You-Throw
  • Implement bulky item reuse
  • Process compostables
  • Develop social marketing campaign targeting all generator sectors
  • Provide recycling in public areas
  • Increase C&D Ordinance requirements
  • Develop recycling markets
  • Implement environmental purchasing policy
  • Implement LAUSD Zero Waste Curriculum
  • Advocate for producer responsibility
  • Implement multifamily recycling rollout
Pasadena 73% 87%
  • Collect & process residential & commercial food scraps, organics & other compostable materials
  • Implement product & disposal bans (e.g., polystyrene food packaging)
  • Advocate for producer responsibility
  • Enhance waste reduction programs
  • Increase C&D Ordinance requirements
  • Enhance education & outreach
  • Provide recycling in public areas
  • Provide commercial technical assistance
  • Expand mandatory commercial recycling
Santa Monica 77% 98%
  • Collect residential & commercial food scraps
  • Foster behavior change
  • Switch to bi-weekly refuse collection
  • Start wet/dry collection
  • Process residual wastes
  • Expand mandatory commercial recycling
Waste Management Trends and Material Recovery Potential Graphic
Waste Management Trends and Material Recovery Potential Source: CalRecycle 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study

Pasadena began the transition from a consuming to a conserving society when the Integrated Waste Management Act (Assembly Bill 939) passed in 1989. From the initial blue box curbside recycling pilot through implementation of a fully automated Pay-As-You-Throw variable rate system, Pasadena’s diversion rate has increased from 37 percent in 1995 to 73 percent in 2010. Partnering with the City are the franchise haulers who divert 60 percent of mixed waste and 75 percent of Construction and Demolition Materials from the landfill. Although Pasadena diverted 73 percent of materials from landfills in fiscal year 2010, further diversion is possible. Based on a waste characterization study conducted by CalRecycle in 2008, nearly 77 percent of Pasadena’s disposed materials are reusable, recyclable or compostable. To move beyond the current level of diversion toward the goal of Zero Waste, a plan and implementation schedule is needed. This is no small task. The City and its partners will need to increase diversion through existing programs and develop new, more aggressive programs. The City conducted workshops and solicited input from stakeholders throughout Pasadena and among different generator sectors to elicit feedback on the interests and preferences of the community to implement Zero Waste programs and policies. Based on this feedback, the City has developed a 26-year program which is expected to increase Pasadena’s diversion rate to a minimum of 87 percent by 2040.

The Zero Waste Plan is a working document. It represents what the Department of Public Works believes to be the best initiatives at this point in time to achieve maximum diversion. In developing this plan, careful consideration was given to the potential effectiveness, feasibility and level of community support for each initiative proposed. In order for this to be the best possible plan for Pasadena to approach Zero Waste, it will be necessary to review and update this plan as new technologies, opportunities, and challenges arise. City staff will review and update the plan every three years.

Download and Read the Full Plan

Pasadena Zero Waste Strategic Plan

View of the Colorado Street Bridge