WMD home
dec home > wm&pd home > waste prevention home > page
Waste Prevention
    Food & Organics
    Product Stewardship & EPR
Construction & Demolition
Hazardous Waste Management
arrow Household Hazardous Waste
Product Stewardship & Take-Back Programs
Salvage Yard Program
Sites Management
Solid Waste
Underground Storage Tanks
arrow Universal Recycling

Waste Prevention

Waste Prevention is a simple concept. If you create less waste, you consume fewer resources. Ultimately you will pay less to recycle and throw away materials.

The State of Vermont in its Solid Waste Management Plan defines Waste Prevention as: The design, manufacture, purchase or use of materials (such as products and packaging) to reduce the amount and toxicity of waste generated.

Find content on this page:

Reduce & Reuse

Zero Waste


Creative Reuse

For local ordinances and resources, contact your local solid waste management entity. These entities have many resources and connections for waste prevention strategies, such as textile recycling.


Reduce & Reuse

Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle. Recycling is an important sustainable materials management practice, but reducing and reusing can have greater impacts by preventing materials from needing to be managed in the first place.

Reducing is an approach to prevent waste by minimizing excess materials and excess consumption. Individuals can reduce their waste by taking only the amount of food they will consume, for example. A business might reduce waste by streamlining and light-weighting their product packaging so it takes up less space, weighs less, requires less material and energy inputs, is recyclable, and creates little or no waste.

Reusing is a strategy to prevent waste by using materials and products as many times, and in as many ways, as possible. Purchasing cloth napkins that can be used multiple times, washed, and reused again is a simple example.  For an even greater impact, the cloth napkins could be purchased second hand or created from an old tablecloth, another instance of reuse. Reuse also includes using products in ways other than for their original, intended purpose. Using a chipped mug for a pencil holder or planter is another easy example of reuse. Rather than discarding the product, its life can be extended for other purposes. Find more ideas about Creative Reuse.

While these concepts are very basic, they have great effects. Reducing and reusing are not only strategies, but are also approaches or concepts that can be internalized and inform the way that individuals and businesses conduct their lives and practices.

Donating to and purchasing from reuse centers and second hand businesses is an easy and powerful way to participate in waste prevention. Find some starting points on our Waste Prevention Resources page.

Zero Waste

Zero Waste (ZW) is a goal that is both pragmatic and visionary, to guide people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal, or plant health.

Zero Waste involves moving from the back end of waste disposal to the front end of resource management. Many businesses, communities, and municipalities have adopted Zero Waste principles that inform the way they produce goods and manage resources.  The following Zero Waste Principles & Practical Steps are advocated by Zero Waste International Alliance:


ZW Community Principles & Practical Steps
ZW Business Principles & Practical Steps
  1. Adopt zero waste as an aspirational goal
  2. Establish benchmarks and a timeline
  3. Engage the whole community
  4. Manage resources not waste
  5. Use economic stimulus funds and fees levied on tons of waste hauled or landfilled
  6. Educate residents, businesses, and visitors
  7. Perform Zero Waste Assessments
  8. Build residual separation and research facilities
  9. Develop new rules and incentives to move towards Zero Waste
  10. Enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) rules
  11. Remove subsidies for wasting
  12. Expand ZW infrastructure
  13. Challenge business to lead the way to ZW
  1. Commitment to the triple bottom line (social, environmental, and economic performance)
  2. Use the Precautionary Principle
  3. Zero Waste sent to landfill or incineration: divert more than 90% of solid waste from the landfill
  4. Responsibility: take back products & packaging
  5. Buy used, recycled, and compostable products
  6. Prevent pollution & reduce waste
  7. Practice highest & best use
  8. Economic incentives for customers, workers, and suppliers
  9. Products or services sold are not wasteful or toxic
  10. Use non-toxic production, reuse, and recycling processes






Zero Waste Hierarchy of Highest & Best Uses

Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to Cradle (C2C) is an approach to the design of products and systems that is modeled on the structure and function of biological systems. C2C provides an avenue for human industry to mimic natural processes in which there is no waste, only resources. Part of the C2C goal is for everything to serve as a resource for something else. C2C began as a proprietary product certification developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart but has transformed into a model that is shepherded by The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a non-profit organization.

The Cradle to Cradle certification is a system that assess products based on five categories:

  1. material health
  2. material reutilization
  3. renewable energy
  4. water stewardship
  5. social fairness

Cradle to Cradle Certified is licensed by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Cradle to Cradle is a registered trademark licensed by McDonoughBraungart Design Chemistry, LLC (MBDC).


Creative Reuse

Creative reuse involves transforming used or recycled material into a new creative item, such as decorations, arts, and crafts. The options are endless and can fit any taste and style, and range from purely decorative to completely functional. Creative reuse can be very simple and not require artistic ability. Projects can be as simple or elaborate as desired. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Turn empty wine bottles into candle stick holders
  • Crochet strips from plastic bags to make a bigger, stronger, more durable plastic bag
  • Transform 3-4 old, untreated pallets into a structure for compost piles
  • Transform 2 old pallets into a bike rack
  • Cut 2 plastic cups to fit your phone or device to amplify the sound from the speakers
  • Use an old sock ankle to make an arm band to hold a music player or key while out running
  • Hang old CDs in your garden to deter birds
  • Hang an old bike wheel to make a pot and pan hanging rack (remove the tire)
  • Make a pin board or dart board out of wine corks

Sales of creative reuse products are also gaining popularity. Support creative reuse projects when making purchases.


image from 1000 uses


Learn more about waste reduction and prevention by exploring our Waste Prevention Resources page

Ready to turn your food scraps into compost instead of trash?  Learn more about Home Composting

Reduce waste during your DIY Construction projects, learn more on our Construction & Demolition Waste Prevention pages

Learn more about reducing and proper handling of Household Hazardous Waste

Universal Recycling resources

Universal Recycling for Residents




Please note the new contact information:

New phone numbers: click here

For more information, contact:

Department of Environmental Conservation
Waste Management & Prevention Division, Solid Waste Program
1 National Life Drive - Davis 1, Montpelier, VT  05620-3704

(802) 828-1138


Last updated:
VT DEC Waste Management & Prevention Division 1 National Life Drive - Davis 1  Montpelier, VT  05620-3704  Tele: 802-828-1138  Fax: 802-828-1011

State of Vermont Agencies & Depts.     Access Government 24/7     About Vermont.Gov     Privacy Policy  

A Vermont Government Website Copyright 2003 State of Vermont - All rights reserved