Zero Waste Program Encourages Forward-Thinking Approach

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Fairfax County Zero Waste goals include reducing solid waste by 25% and diverting 90% of waste from the trash


You may have heard the phrase "zero waste," but what does it mean for Fairfax County? 

Several years ago, the Board of Supervisors asked staff to identify ways to collaborate with Fairfax County Public Schools to improve our collective environment. From this, the Joint Environmental Task Force (JET), comprised of county/school staff and community partners, was formed to proactively and equitably address climate change and environmental sustainability. One of JET's goals is Zero Waste by 2030. 



Our Zero Waste goal is twofold: 

  • Decrease waste by 25%
  • Divert 90% of waste from the trash

Zero Waste is a philosophy, commitment and design principle seeking to minimize waste to close to nothing by adopting a climate-conscious approach to the vast flow of resources and waste that move through society. 

To achieve these goals, 50 possible options were identified and 24 optimal strategies were selected. These options and selections were the result of analyzing existing programs, policies and procedures; then analyzing each strategy’s potential impact toward our Zero Waste goal and its feasibility and suitability for implementation in Fairfax County’s unique operations.



The best way to reduce waste is to create less of it in the first place.

While efforts like recycling and composting are important, reduction and reuse address waste at the source so there’s less waste to begin with. In addition, making new products requires extracting and processing raw materials, manufacturing and transportation, all of which contribute to climate-warming emissions and pollution. Reducing and reusing not only decreases waste but also decreases these emissions.




  • Zero Waste Champions Network - The Zero Waste Champions Network consists of designated leads in each county department who are responsible for educating and motivating colleagues and coordinating action in their departments, as well as helping to measure progress.
  • Fairfax County Facility Waste Audits - Two week-long waste audits were conducted in summer and fall 2023 to quantify what’s in our trash, recycling and compost. The locations analyzed represent a large array of the types of facilities. The results from these waste audits include recommendations to prevent, reduce and divert the various types of waste the county generates. 
  • The Three Bin Pilot Project - The Three Bin Pilot project was launched in spring 2023, with the goal of providing three bins (trash, recycle and compost) in all department kitchenettes located in the Government Center. Fairfax County has an estimated 30% divertible food waste in the trash stream.
  • Reusable Pallet Wraps - The Department of Procurement and Material Management has a large warehouse used to store materials for other departments. At this location, plastic shrink wrap used to wrap pallets is a major source of waste – and this waste is hard to recycle. Warehouse staff tested and then implemented reusable pallet wraps to replace the shrink wrap. These wraps can be used sometimes thousands of times, and each application of a wrap prevents the use of about 250 square feet of plastic wrap. 
  • Reusable Foodware - The Zero Waste Team launched the Zero Waste Party Pack program in October 2023. This is a free program for all county departments. Three party packs are available to reserve for use at any Fairfax County hosted event. The availability of reusable foodware helps reduce the amount of waste generated at county held events. Since its launch, the Zero Waste Party Packs have been used at dozens of events, resulting in over 7,100 pieces of reusable foodware utilized rather than the disposable alternatives. That’s a lot of prevented waste!

Additionally, each department has its own unique opportunities to reduce waste. The Zero Waste program encourages departments to look at opportunities to reduce waste within their own unique processes. 

The Zero Waste plan is also tied to several goals of the Countywide Strategic Plan

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