How To Get There > Zero Waste goals & plans > Zero Waste Goal: Oakland, California, USA

Zero Waste Goal: Oakland, California, USA

Oakland, California

The City of Oakland adopted a goal of Zero Waste by 2020 with the aim to reduce waste by 90%. The city is a national leader in Zero Waste planning.

Action(s) Taken

  • Zero Waste goals & plans



Year Enacted



The City of Oakland adopted a goal of Zero Waste by 2020. Specifically, Oakland’s goal is to reduce the amount of trash that goes to the landfill by 90%. By setting a limit on the amount of landfilled trash and not just aiming to recycle 90% of their waste, the city is prioritizing waste prevention and a total reduction of waste.

Strategic Planning

The city’s Zero Waste Strategic Plan (2005) and Zero Waste System policy (2012) have made Oakland a leader in Zero Waste planning.

The Zero Waste Strategic Plan outlined five focus areas for achieving the Zero Waste goal:

  • Expand and improve local and regional recycling and composting
  • Develop and adopt new rules and incentives to reduce waste disposal
  • Preserve land for sustainable development and green industry infrastructure
  • Advocate for manufacturer responsibility for product waste, ban problem materials
  • Educate about, promote and advocate a zero waste sustainability agenda.

While Oakland was already a leader with 55% recovery in 2005, the plan further focused on expanding efforts in two major areas: the non-residential sector and business recycling. Targeted outreach, restructured contracts, and strengthened construction and demolition (C&D) regulations are planned for the non-residential sector. This group is responsible for 2/3 of trash generation.

Maintaining and expanding recycling infrastructure for businesses is also targeted. With a major shipping port, Oakland is home to a vibrant recycling industry but competition for land is high. The plan recommended loans, strong and clear incentives, technical assistance, policy goals and zoning priorities to further support and grow this resource.

Programs and Policies

Oakland’s success in moving toward Zero Waste is due to its effective programs and policies. This includes a three-bin curbside collection for households for recycling, organics (yard debris and food leftovers) and trash. Multi-family units receive weekly recycling with optional yard and food waste collection. The city also offers affordable recycling services for small businesses.

An aggressive C&D recycling policy aims for recovery of 100% of concrete and asphalt and 65% of other materials. Oakland also bans polystyrene food containers and requires for food vendors to use compostable alternatives (when affordable). Recycling service at events is mandatory and a litter fee is imposed on fast food businesses, convenience markets, gas stations and liquor stores.

Finally, the city offers extensive education, outreach and technical assistance programs through their own resources and, particularly for businesses.

A Zero Waste System

In 2012 the Zero Waste System policy restructured the city’s contracts to better meet its recovery goals, create sustainable funding mechanisms for haulers, and provide a system that succeeds as waste generation decreases.

The new contracts change the rate structure so the financial viability of the system is not dependent on the tons of trash hauled and there are incentives for haulers and generators to reduce waste. The system also covers the costs to the city for managing the Zero Waste system, including monitoring and enforcement, education and administration.

The system splits the hauling infrastructure into:

  • A single franchise contract to collect all residential recycling
  • A single franchise contract for citywide trash and organics collection with optional collection of recycling from businesses
  • A contract for landfill disposal separate from hauling to eliminate the advantage of haulers owning their own landfill
  • A permit system for business recycling to maintain a competitive market of independent recyclers.


Oakland Resolution Adopting a Zero Waste Goal

Oakland Resolution Adopting a Zero Waste Strategic Plan

Oakland Zero Waste Strategic Plan

Report: Recommended Zero Waste System Design (2011)

Resolution Establishing Zero Waste System Design


More Information

City of Oakland Zero Waste webpage

Case Study of Oakland’s Zero Waste Efforts

Planetizen article: “Oakland, CA: Zero Waste by 2020?”

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