What is a Zero Waste lifestyle?
As I have explored the many subjects relating to eco-friendly alternatives to common household items, including plastic-free, compostable and biodegradable products, I have noticed a return to the amazing philosophy and revolution around living a Zero Waste lifestyle, first made popular as a theory in the early 2000s. Now we see these efforts backed by campaigns, social movements and government incentives, with many large companies coming on board.
The main aim of living a Zero Waste lifestyle is to dramatically reduce the about of trash and household waste that becomes another pile in the landfill, sent to the incinerator or even ending up polluting our beaches or oceans.
Today we see many fantastic efforts to reuse or recycle things, cut down on the use of plastic bags and other single-use plastics in packaging and near-heroic efforts to clear up our environment, beaches and oceans of the mammoth amounts of plastic pollutants assaulting nature in our consumer-driven, grab-and-go wasteful generation.
The Zero Waste revolution seeks to go further than that, to deal with the problem at source. It looks to change the design methodology at production, to ensure products and packaging is considered throughout the product lifecycle; how they can be reduced, reused and recycled.
Zero Waste does not mean recycling.
Recycling can be a component of zero waste, but apart from the well know areas of the plastic bottle, glass and can recycling, some recycling schemes only deal with part of the problem. For example, in the area of computer ‘recycling’, we see that many schemes only offload them to third world countries where most can then end up in a landfill, sometimes after only a few commodity or resaleable parts have been removed.
The Zero Waste approach would be to repair and fix, refurbish or repurpose the computers, therefore removing the need to dispose of them. To prolong their useful life and or perhaps donate them to schools or others in need causes.
Durable and repairable
We live in a consumer-led culture where companies actively seek return custom. Products are rarely easily repairable and many in today’s society will resort to replacing a broken item, rather looking to have it repaired. We need to incentivise companies to produce durable, hardwearing products that don’t need to be replaced so often.
This is especially difficult in the age of rapid technological advancement. We commonly see the desire to have the latest and greatest phone, TV or gadget, even while the current version is perfectly useable.
Thankfully there are many pop-up repair shops, community efforts and training to help people fix common household items, including online blogs, tutorials and youtube videos helping you return your beloved gadget or home essential to a usable state.
So much packaging!
An important part of Zero Waste is to deal with the huge amount of unneeded packaging from the products we buy. The challenge is to encourage companies to remove this packaging at the source, incentivising the use of reusable, recyclable or at worst, compostable packaging.
We see increased pressure on supermarkets, manufacturers and producers to remove the ridiculously unnecessary packaging from items like fruit and veg, or the multi-layered ‘protection’ packaging that is not only a pain to open, but hits the bin within seconds of opening and offers questionable protection to the product in the first place.
The Circular Economy
ZERO waste is a daunting and challenging target, it can be overly restrictive and downright tough. This is why many proponents of Zero Waste are huge supporters of the circular economy, an achievable and complimentary philosophy.
‘Make, use and dispose of’ – Today we live in a linear economy, resources are consumed and discarded, usually never to be used again and dumped as waste or pollution.
The circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. “Reuse, repair, refurbish, remake, redesign, recondition and recycle” maximising the lifecycle of the product’s usefulness within the economy, thus removing some of the challenges of Zero Waste.
How do I start living a Zero Waste lifestyle?
This could be a challenging process for many. You may need to change from a culture of instant gratification and grab-and-go. It will take patience and perseverance but you can do it, or at least make many strides in the right direction and there is plenty of help out there!
The first step is to look at the amount of waste in your daily life, once you start, you will be amazed of the amount of waste in your everyday life and how simple a few changes can be that will make a big difference.
Where can I find more information and help?
Here are some amazing books available about Zero Waste and the Circular Economy: –
Circular Economy: –
More Zero Waste products: –