City ready to write zero by 50 waste reduction plan

Chase Jones, the city’s energy conservation and climate action coordinator, will lead a series of community listening sessions next month to begin writing a plan to achieve the City Council’s “ZERO by FIFTY” waste reduction goals. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

One year ago, the City Council adopted a zero-waste strategy that set an ambitious goal of reducing Missoula’s waste stream by 90 percent by the year 2050.

It also directed city staff to develop a strategy to achieve that goal, and it gave them two years to do it. The clock has been ticking ever since.

“It asked us to conduct a baseline waste study so we can understanding how much waste our community is sending to the landfill, what it’s made of and where it’s coming from,” Chase Jones, the city’s energy conservation and climate action coordinator, said on Monday. “We’re working on that right now with Republic services.”

The city’s resolution defines zero waste as a means to design and manage “products and processes” that avoid or eliminate the volume of materials sent to the landfill each year. It also looks to reduce the toxicity of those materials and find ways to conserve or recovery all resources.

Nothing would be burned or buried under the long-term goal. That means cutting back on consumption, reducing what’s thrown away and reusing products where possible.

“What’s left after that we can hopefully recycle,” said Jones. “The theory is, if you do those three things really well, then there’s little to nothing to be sent to the landfill.”

According to the city’s resolution, the Missoula Landfill receives more than 210,000 tons of garbage each year. That increases greenhouse gases as it decomposes and wastes precious resources, which maintains the demand for toxic products.

At the current rate, the local landfill is expected to last just 15 years. Achieving community goals through reduction and broader recycling could lead to spin-off business opportunities, the City Council believes.

“I think there will be policy program and infrastructure recommendations in this plan,” Jones said. “In other plans we’ve taken a look at, they include those things as well.”

Over the next two weeks, the city, its partner Home ReSource and the Zero Waste Advisory Committee will hit the streets with a series of listening sessions aimed at the city’s “ZERO by FIFTY” initiative.

That includes the incremental steps of hitting a 30 percent waste reduction by 2025 and 40 percent by 2030. Jones said the team looks to compile the feedback from the listening sessions and best national practices in a final plan by the end of this year.

“We’ll take the information we get from those meetings to create a draft of the plan,” said Jones. “Then we’ll go back out in early fall for public comment on the draft to make sure we heard everyone and heard their concerns.”

The sessions include:

– Thursday, March 2, from 6-8 p.m. at Missoula Federal Credit Union located at 3600 Brooks St.

– Tuesday, March 7, from 6-8 p.m. at the Burns Street Center at 1500 Burns St.

– Wednesday, March 8, from 6-8 p.m. at the Missoula Public Library at 301 E. Main St.