Waste Wise is a free, voluntary program set up by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which attempts to eliminate costly municipal solid waste. Waste Wise targets the reduction of municipal solid waste, including corrugated containers, office paper, yard trimmings, packing, and wood pallets, that would otherwise end up in dumpsters. This program is flexible and allows members to design their own solid waste reduction programs tailored to their specific needs. Waste is a drain on resources and most involved organizations report that they have gained a competitive edge through waste reduction. Participants, who include local government, nonprofit organizations, and large multi-national corporations, join the program by signing a three year contract and commit to reduce waste, establish waste reduction goals, and track progress of their accomplishments. Within six months of joining, partners must set their three year goals in each of the complementary program areas: waste prevention, recycling collection, and buying or manufacturing products with recycled content. To help communicate the Waste Wise program message to more organizations, EPA launched another program within the Waste Wise program called the Waste Wise Endorser program. Endorsers are trade associations and other membership-based organizations that act as block leaders. Endorser’s use communication to help members realize that reducing solid waste makes good business sense. In addition, endorsers demonstrate leadership, help members achieve financial savings, and play a significant role in conserving natural resources and preventing pollution. Waste Wise Endorsers commit to conducting activities in two areas: (1) recruiting member organizations to become Waste Wise partners, and (2) provide members with ongoing promotional or technical information. The Waste Wise program suggests that waste reduction is good for business because one of its main incentives is financial savings through reduced purchasing and waste disposal cost. Another business incentive is that Waste Wise will publicize organizations successful in reducing waste through EPA publications, case studies, and national & regional events. Once the EPA approves an organization's goals, they receive a Waste Wise logo for internal and external use. This logo prompts the members of the organization to remind them to reduce and recycle their waste.
Since the onset of the Waste Wise program in 1994, partners have reported strong waste prevention and recycling collection results. In addition to natural resource conservation and economic savings, reducing waste lowers atmospheric greenhouses gas emissions by reducing fossil fuel consumption, minimizing methane emissions and allowing vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Throughout the course of the program, more than 35 million tons of waste from the municipal solid waste stream has been removed through waste prevention and recycling activities. In 1999, partner’s waste reduction activities reduced emissions by more than 6.5 million tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE, the standard unit of measure for greenhouse gas emissions). Since 1994, they have prevented the emissions of 25 million MTCE. This is equal to the removal of 19 million cars from the road for one year. Since the Waste Wise was implemented in 1994 organizations such as McDonald’s have spent more than $350 million on recycled content products, including nearly 110 million pounds of napkins. In addition, Berts Fish Medical Center has donated over 1,300 pounds of used linen to charity, which normally would have been thrown into a local landfill. They also donated or sold around 3,000 pounds of furniture at local flee-markets.