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Category 9

Waste + Circular Economy

Waste is expensive, polluting, and a liability. Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designing waste out of the system.

Ideal Future State

Cortex is a zero-waste District that intelligently reuses and re-purposes all its resources.

Why Important

Every year, humans produce 300 million tons of plastic, much of which goes on to clog our landfills and oceans. 91% of plastic is not recycled, and most of what we throw into our recycling bins doesn’t ultimately get recycled due to contamination. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form.

Objectives / Targets

  • Net Zero Waste in all buildings by 2030 (True Certification).
  • Waste is diverted from landfills through reduction, reuse, and recycling.
  • The residual value of organic waste (compost) is captured for reuse or sharing.
  • Historic and culturally significant places are preserved and celebrated (Goodwill Building).
  • Require food waste collection for composting, anaerobic digestion, or energy use.
  • Require separation of recyclables, waste, and compost at the building level.
  • Incentivize long life buildings and materials by limiting demolition.
  • Incentivize flexible and convertible building designs.
  • Require 85% construction waste diversion for all renovation and construction projects.
  • Incentivize design and construction for disassembly & reuse.
  • Ban single use plastic from being sold in the District.
  • Reusable take out containers.


True Zero Waste (, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy Framework.


  • Waste Management Audit for the District.
  • TRUE Waste Certification standards.

Future Targets

  • Establish provider for robust recycling and composting by 2026
  • Net Zero Waste in all buildings by 2030
  • Zero Waste District by 2040 – through Circular Economy framework.

Immediate Steps

Develop initial list of single use plastic items to stop selling within the District (with stakeholders).

Short-Term Steps

Conduct waste stream audit in partnership with City Muni Waste or Green Dining Alliance.

Long-Term Steps

Use the District Circular Economy and a model and learning hub for the region.


Cortex only manages a small percentage of the buildings but can create opportunities to establish clear waste reduction targets with all tenants and stakeholders. We must remember that waste costs everyone money, and on the flip side, the reduction of waste saves money.