Gary Liss & Associates
Our Background
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This page highlights our firm's qualifications and experience.


General Qualifications and Experience


Mr. Liss has over 39 years of experience in the solid waste and recycling field.  He was a founder and past President of the National Recycling Coalition and was Solid Waste Manager for the City of San Jose, CA.  In San Jose, Mr. Liss developed their recycling programs into national models, which are currently diverting 62% of the overall waste stream.


Mr. Liss is a leading advocate of Zero Waste, and a special Zero Waste advisor to the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN).  Mr. Liss has documented Zero Waste Businesses, developed Zero Waste Business Principles and helped organize Zero Waste business conferences. Mr. Liss has also worked on more Zero Waste community plans than any other individual in the United States.


Mr. Liss is President of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, on the Boards of the Zero Waste International Alliance and the GrassRoots Recycling Network, and is on the Sierra Club national Zero Waste Team.  He was also one of the founders of the Zero Waste for Global Cooling Coalition.  In 2005, Mr. Liss was recognized for his leadership by being selected as the CRRA Recycler of the Year. 


Gary Liss & Associates (GLA) develops Zero Waste Plans; helps public and private sector clients on strategic solid waste and recycling policy and program analyses; evaluates and develops Resource Recovery Parks; designs incentive-based solid waste and recycling systems; drafts RFPs and contracts for municipal solid waste and recycling services; and develops proposals and joint ventures among innovative reuse; recycling and composting companies. 


Previously he was Executive Director of the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA).   For CRRA, Mr. Liss organized workshops and their Annual Conference, including the first Zero Waste Conference in the nation in 1997.   Under his leadership, CRRA adopted its Agenda for the New Millennium, which calls for Zero Waste as a new goal for resource and waste management.  Mr. Liss also assisted CRRA in the formation of GRRN, which advocates for Zero Waste nationally and the Global Recycling Council (GRC), which advocates for Zero Waste primarily within California.


Prior to that, Mr. Liss was Solid Waste Manager for the City of San Jose, CA and developed their recycling programs into national models, which are currently diverting 62% of the waste stream.  Before that, he worked for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a national solid waste consulting firm, the New Jersey Department of Energy and the City of Newark, New Jersey. 


He has a Masters in Public Administration from Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey and a Bachelor's in Civil Engineering (Environmental Engineering major) from Tufts University.  In 2005, Mr. Liss went through extensive training in the Zero Emissions Research Initiatives ( and is now a Certified ZERI System Designer. He was elected to Council in his home town of Loomis and served as Mayor in 2010.


Mr. Liss has also been active professionally throughout his career.  He was Secretary to the California State Senate Task Force on Waste Management in 1989, which led to the adoption of AB939 and related recycling legislation in California.  He assisted in the development of the CRRA's State Recycling Policy, CRRA's Recycling Agenda for the 1990s, and the National Recycling Coalition's National Policy on Recycling.  He also currently serves on the Executive Committees of the Global Recycling Ccouncil and CRRA’s Recyclers Global Warming Council.


Zero Waste Qualifications and Experience


Mr. Liss is a leading advocate of Zero Waste, and a special Zero Waste advisor to the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN).  For the GRRN, he has documented Zero Waste Businesses, developed Zero Waste business principles (see and is helping to develop their Zero Waste Communities Project. 


Gary Liss has worked on more Zero Waste community plans than any other individual in the United States. GLA helped write and edit the nation’s first local government Zero Waste Plan for Del Norte County, California. GLA helped draft a Zero Waste Action Plan for Nelson, British Columbia, and commented on the draft People’s Zero Waste Plan for New York City. In 2005, GLA drafted the Palo Alto, CA Zero Waste Strategic Plan, and then worked on a Zero Waste Operational Plan for Palo Alto. In 2006, he helped write a Zero Waste Strategic Plan for Oakland, CA. He is now working on drafting Zero Waste Plans for the Cities of Los Angeles, Burbank, San Juan Capistrano and San Jose in CA, the Town of Telluride, CO, the City of Albuquerque, NM and the City of Austin, Texas.  He also helped write a Zero Waste Communities Strategy for the Zero Waste Task Force of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in CA.


Mr. Liss also drafted 12 case studies on the latest developments in reuse, recycling and composting being pursued by local governments, including studies on Incentives, Business Policies, C&D Policies, Organics, and Resource Recovery Parks.  Many of these successful tools are included in Zero Waste plans that he has written.


Mr. Liss presented testimony on Zero Waste to the California Integrated Waste Management Board that contributed to their adoption of Zero Waste as one of 7 goals in their Strategic Plan in 2001 – the first state agency in the United States to do so. Mr. Liss provided background information to staff, then presented testimony on Zero Waste to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which contributed to their adoption of a Zero Waste goal in 2002.  GLA also presented testimony to the Minnesota Blue Ribbon Commission on Solid Waste and to the US Environmental Protection Agency advocating Zero Waste for consideration in their “Beyond RCRA” white paper in 2001. GLA prepared testimony on Zero Waste for the USEPA to consider in their agency-wide Strategic Plan in 2003. 


Mr. Liss helped organize the Global Recycling Council International Dialog on Proper Discard Management in San Francisco on August 26-27, 2004, and the GRRN Zero Waste Network Action Conference in Oakland on August 28, 2004.  


Mr. Liss worked with the Salt Lake Olympics Organizing Committee to improve the design of their Zero Waste system for the 2002 Olympics, and studied how Zero Waste has been achieved in other major events throughout the world.  Mr. Liss also assisted the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and their partner, Earth Life Africa to conduct a portion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development as a Zero Waste event. 


Mr. Liss proposed the adoption of a $20-40/ton Zero Waste Fee on all landfills in the state of California, to fund Zero Waste initiatives in the state, and provide a local cash match for bond issues proposed by the Governor. Subsequently, the Sierra Club National Zero Waste Team adopted a similar proposal to adopt a national landfill surcharge as a Green Jobs Fee to help stimulate the development of local recycling industry in the U.S.


GLA wrote fact sheets for the GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN) on Zero Waste Communities and Zero Waste Businesses and developed new criteria for evaluating the performance of businesses in achieving Zero Waste (see  GLA drafted comments from GRRN on the Global Reporting Initiative for corporate accountability on social and environmental performance.  GLA researches other “Zero Heroes:” businesses diverting more than 90% of their waste from landfills and incineration. GLA also organized state and national conference sessions and presentations on Zero Waste Businesses and Zero Waste Communities


Mr. Liss was one of 4 speakers from the United States who spoke at the First National Zero Waste Conference in Paris, France in May 2004.  Mr. Liss spoke on “Incentives” and “Resource Recovery Parks.” Mr. Liss was one of 3 speakers from the United States who spoke at the Second Annual Zero Waste Conference in New Zealand in 2000.  Mr. Liss spoke on “Local Government Incentives for Zero Waste.” GLA prepared a Feasibility Study for a small scale Resource Recovery Park in Del Norte County, California, and wrote a case study on a wide variety of Resource Recovery Parks in 2000 for the California Integrated Waste Management Board.  He also wrote the website for the US Environmental Protection Agency on Resource Recovery Parks.


RFPs and Contracts Qualifications and Experience


Prior to CRRA, Mr. Liss was Solid Waste Program Manager for the City of San Jose from 1983-1991.  In San Jose, he initiated and managed their nationally recognized model recycling programs and their total solid waste system of over $50 million per year.  He developed one of the nation’s first Waste Reduction Strategies in 1985 which reduced San Jose’s waste by 25% through curbside, yard waste and commercial recycling programs, and he helped design programs which resulted in their current overall diversion rate of 62%.  He also worked to stimulate competition and harness the forces of the marketplace to achieve the City’s policy goals.  He revised the solid waste fees and taxes collected by the City to provide clear price signals to the marketplace so that generators, haulers, recyclers and landfill operators would all benefit economically by preventing waste and recycling. 


Through a comprehensive Solid Waste Strategy, Mr. Liss also saved San Jose more than $77 million over the next 30 years through competitive awards of a $200 million 30 year Disposal Contract and a $200 million 7 year Collection Contract.  He successfully planned, monitored and managed the transition of the largest garbage collection contract in the nation, without any billing or service data provided by the previous contractor.  By 1991, he managed a Program Budget of $6 million per year. He increased revenues to the City’s General Fund from $1.2 million to over $25 million per year from a wide variety of solid waste fees and taxes.  Mr. Liss also drafted permit conditions for landfills in San Jose that required them to offer lower rates for businesses which kept their materials separated at the source, to encourage more recycling. 


In San Jose, Mr. Liss also drafted in the Commercial Recycling Plan and the Source Reduction and Recycling Element, a paradigm for a phased approach to local government involvement in business recycling: education and information first; incentives second; bans from landfills and mandates to source separate third; and City providing commercial recycling services if all else failed.  He also pioneered a unique structure for yard waste collection and processing contracts, which placed the City in a role as a key market for the materials processed in the yard waste program. 


Previously, Mr. Liss worked for the US Conference of Mayors, a national solid waste management consulting firm (GBB), the New Jersey Department of Energy (Assistant Administrator for Alternate Technologies: Resource Recovery) and the City of Newark, New Jersey (formed and managed Office of Environmental Services).  For the US Conference of Mayors, Mr. Liss researched and produced a series of case studies highlighting the ties between resource recovery and economic development in cities throughout the nation.  For the New Jersey Department of Energy, Mr. Liss drafted the Solid Waste portion of the Energy Master Plan, which established one of the first state recycling goals in 1978.  For the City of Newark, New Jersey, Mr. Liss drafted a Solid Waste Plan of Action, and then implemented pioneering recycling and waste-to-energy programs in the City.


Sample RFPs and Contracts Projects

  • Integrated Waste and Recycling System Procurement – Currently managing all aspects of the procurement process for the City of Lewiston, ID Integrated Waste and Recycling System.  The City had worked over many years to have all their service agreements terminate at the same time in December 2006 for refuse collection, yard waste collection, recyclables collection and processing, composting, transfer and disposal.  The City wanted to determine if an integrated system offered by one firm would yield lower costs than the existing system of multiple contractors.  Although the procurement is still underway, the one firm that proposed an integrated system proposed a much higher cost than the existing contractor. 
  • Refuse and Recycling System Procurement – Managed all aspects of the procurement process for the City of Hawthorne, CA for commercial and residential refuse and recycling services.  The City had not solicited proposals for over 47 years.  GLA conducted Community meetings, a Community Refuse and Recycling Survey and interviewed Council-members and other key opinion-leaders, then prepared System Design Report.  After obtaining Council direction on the System Design Report and major issues of concern to them, GLA prepared RFPs and Agreements for separate solicitations of Commercial and Residential Systems.  Commercial system was designed to solicit 5-10 semi-exclusive franchise operators, with requirements to provide all needed refuse services, and if requested, some or all recycling services needed.  Haulers are required to provide recycling services free to all multi-family dwellings.  Business generators are asked to achieve a 50% recycling goal, and to submit Business Recycling Plans annually with their Business Tax payments.  Residential system was designed to change from the current manual collection of refuse, recycling and yard waste to automated (as much as possible) with single-stream recycling (requiring only 5% residue) and an option of combined organics (yard trimmings, food discards and food-soiled paper). Attracted over 45 firms that expressed interest in participating in the procurement.  Attracted 15 proposals for commercial and 6 proposals for residential services.  The existing hauler sued the City and fought the environmental documents prepared for the process.  Council awarded 8 semi-exclusive franchise agreements for commercial, which reduced costs 50% on average for all businesses in Hawthorne. Council awarded exclusive residential contract to lowest responsible proposer, which was the existing hauler, after the hauler agreed to stop its litigation against the City and agreed to stop fighting the environmental documents that underpinned the process.
  • Solid Waste & Recycling RFP and Agreement – Assisted the Montara Sanitary District in drafting Request for Proposals and Draft Agreement for solid waste collection and disposal, curbside recycling and organics recycling programs.  GLA was asked to maximize waste diversion as one of the major goals of this project, through clear specification of reuse, recycling and composting services and use of economic incentives.  Assisted in identifying and contacting potential proposers, organizing and running Preproposal conference, release of RFP and Draft Agreement and preparation and release of two addenda (with responses to questions raised).  
  • TS/MRF RFP and Agreement - Assisted Del Norte County in drafting Request for Proposals and Draft Agreement for the design, permitting, construction management supervision, and operations of a Transfer Station/Material Recovery Facility.  Goal includes maximizing reuse, recycling and composting at the TS/MRF, as well as complementing plans to develop a Resource Recovery Park as a next phase of development.  Project also is designed to provide economic incentives and requirements in the agreement to ensure highest quality of performance for both transfer and material recovery functions, while minimizing risks associated with end disposal of solid waste.
  • 50% Diversion Case Studies & Video Conference – Worked as a subcontractor for the CA Integrated Waste Management Board to develop case studies and a videoconference to assist local governments with the development and implementation of programs to reach the 50 percent diversion mandates.  Worked with the University of California Extension at Santa Cruz (UCSC), Californians Against Waste and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.  Case studies summarize communities of different sizes that have achieved 50% or greater diversion, and innovative techniques and approaches used by other communities that could assist them to meet the 50 percent diversion mandate.  Studies prepared by GLA included:
      • Business Recycling Plans & Policies
      • Community Clean-ups
      • Community-Wide Programs - Sonoma County Joint Powers Authority (Regional model)
      • Construction & Demolition (C&D) Policies & Plans
      • Curbside Recycling: The Next Generation
      • Government Facilities (Local, State, & Federal)
      • Incentive Programs for Local Government Recycling and Waste Reduction
      • Last Chance Mercantile (Monterey County)   
      • Mixed Construction & Demolition (C&D) Processors
      • Organics Recycling Options
      • Resource Recovery Parks
      • Shop Smart Program (San Francisco Bay Area)
  • C&D Recycling Plan - Worked with team of consultants to develop California's first local government comprehensive Construction & Demolition (C&D) Debris Recycling Plan for City of Hawthorne, CA.  Included recommendation that no C&D debris collected by franchised hauler should be landfilled (adopted as 90%) so that all those materials would go to material recovery or independent recycling facilities first.  The C&D Plan also directed franchised hauler to prepare a C&D Operations Plan to detail how they would recycle 50% of all C&D they collected.  Also drafted resolution requiring all private C&D operators to report on C&D recycling activities in Hawthorne.   The C&D Plan was required by the State, as part of an order to bring the City of Hawthorne, CA into compliance with State diversion requirements.  
  • Rate Reviews - Assisted two small, rural Sanitary Districts immediately north of Half Moon Bay (Montara & Granada) to review a rate increase request by the local waste hauler which services both Districts, and develop recommendations on how to expand reuse, recycling and composting activities in the service areas.  Assisted San Luis Obispo County in review of a base year rate increase request from a small hauler in rural Paso Robles area.  

Public Procurement Experience


As Gary Liss & Associates:

  • Lewiston, ID - Integrated Waste and Recycling System
  • Hawthorne, CA - Solid Waste and Recycling System
  • Montara and Granada Sanitary Districts, CA - Solid Waste and Recycling System
  • Del Norte County Waste Management Authority, CA - Transfer Station/MRF 

As Gary Liss:

  • City of San Jose, CA
      • Recycle Plus! (1992)
      • Solid Waste Disposal (Negotiated 1984; Competitive 1985)
      • Solid Waste Collection (1985)
      • Pilot Curbside Recycling (1985)
      • Pilot Commercial Recycling (1987)
      • Pilot Composting (1987)
      • Citywide Curbside (1987)
      • Citywide Composting (1988)
  • City of Newark, NJ
      • Solid Waste Collection (1977)
      • Resource Recovery Facility (1976)

Resource Recovery Park Projects

  • Del Norte Resource Recovery Park Feasibility Study - A comprehensive team led by Mr. Liss completed a Feasibility Study for a Resource Recovery Park in Del Norte County, California.  This proposes to build a 7-acre Resource Recovery Park on the site of the new Transfer Station/Material Recovery Facility when the local landfill closes in one year.  The RR Park was found to be feasible, particularly due to avoided costs of anticipated $75/ton transfer and disposal fees.  The RR Park could be started with a number of local reuse industries that were surveyed and found to be interested in participating.  (Ref. Tedd Ward, Del Norte Solid Waste Authority, 707-465-1100 or
  • Waveney, UK Zero Waste Centre Feasibility Study - A comprehensive team with Mr. Liss as the key author and editor recently completed a Feasibility Study for a Zero Waste Centre in Waveney, UK.  This proposes to build a 15-acre Zero Waste Centre adjacent to the site of the existing Transfer Station, to primarily serve the commercial sector in the area on an open competitive basis.  The Zero Waste Centre was found to be feasible, particularly due to a $40/ton surcharge on solid waste disposal throughout the UK that was adopted in response to the EU requirement to phase organics out of landfills.  (Ref. Richard Anthony, lead for project, Richard Anthony Associates, 858-272-2905,
  • Resource Recovery Parks Case Study – Mr. Liss researched and wrote a case study on Resource Recovery Parks, focused primarily on recycling-based eco-industrial park projects in California.  Resource Recovery Parks highlighted in this case study include: the Urban Ore/Berkeley Resource Recovery Park building, the Monterey Regional Environmental Park, and the Cabazon Resource Recovery Park in Indio, California.  The case study highlights key concepts of Resource Recovery Parks and how they are related to eco-industrial parks being promoted by the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. This was one of 24 case studies highlighted in a videoconference on March 30, 2000 that included videotape and expert presentations highlighting local government success stories in recycling in California. (ref. Cara Morgan, CA Integrated Waste Management Board, 916-341-6253,
  • EPA Resource Recovery Parks Website - Mr. Liss wrote a website on Eco-Industrial Parks and Resource Recovery Parks for the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jobs Through Recycling Program, based on the case study completed for the CIWMB. The website can be found at
  • Organics Recycling Park – Developed proposal for private client to the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency to develop an innovative Organics Recycling Park in response to their Request for Proposals for yard waste processing.  Proposed the processing of yard waste, wood waste, clean and mixed construction and demolition debris, gypsum, reuse of pallets and vintage lumber, and the remilling of used lumber into value-added products such as flooring.  As part of this project, Mr. Liss assessed the amount of different types of organics in the waste stream, assessed the current level of organics recycling activities, reviewed market conditions and recommended a way to apply the general concept of recycling-based industrial parks to the organics waste stream.  (Ref. Michael Gross, Zanker Road Resource Management, Ltd., 408-263-2384 or
  • Case Studies of Economic Development and Resource Recovery – Mr. Liss organized and conducted 12 case studies of cities throughout the United States to determine the ties between economic development and resource recovery.  Also produced two critical issue panel reports (Recycling: the Urban Frontier and Resource Recovery Energy Markets, about cogeneration and PURPA) and organized a major national conference on economic development and resource recovery in Detroit, MI.  (Ref. David Gatton, US Conference of Mayors, 202-293-7330).
  • Industrial Recycling Park – While working for the City of Newark, NJ, Mr. Liss assisted the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to evaluate and develop the pioneering concept of a 200 acre Industrial Recycling Park, anchored by a waste-to-energy facility and attracting other reuse and recycling businesses to colocate around that facility.  Mr. Liss drafted a section of the Newark Solid Waste Plan of Action in 1975 to include this concept.  After leaving Newark, Mr. Liss became Assistant Administrator for Alternative Technology for the newly created New Jersey Department of Energy.  In that capacity, he developed the solid waste portion of the NJ Energy Master Plan (including the first state recycling goal in the nation) and included in that document support for authorization of the Port Authority Industrial Recycling Park concept.  Mr. Liss later documented this concept for the nation as one of the case studies on economic development and resource recovery at the US Conference of Mayors.  (Ref. Don Burke, Port Authority, 212-435-6846).

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