Updated: Apr 1
From radio podcasts to magazine articles, the Zero Waste movement has gained popularity in Europe and the US but has also started emerging overseas.
Althought the term is often misunderstood, more and more people declare themselves familiar with the concept. So let’s go back to basics of what is Zero Waste and what is not Zero Waste.
Zero Waste in short
Zero Waste is a philosophy and strategy that aims at reducing the amount of waste produced by individuals, communities, and businesses to as close to zero as possible. The ultimate goal is to create a closed-loop system (circular economy) in which all materials are reused, repurposed, or recycled, with little to no waste going to landfills or incinerators.
When did Zero Waste movement emerge?
The concept of Zero Waste has its origins in the environmental movement of the 1970s and 1980s. However, it wasn't until the 1990s that the term "Zero Waste" was first coined by Paul Palmer, an Australian researcher, environmentalist and nature lover. He suggested that instead of managing waste as a necessary evil, it should be eliminated altogether through a combination of reducing, reusing, recycling, repairing and composting. Although recycling being here the least favorite option, especially for plastic (Greenpeace, 2022).
The key principles of Zero Waste
One of the key principles of Zero Waste is reducing consumption and packaging, as well as choosing products that are made from sustainable, non-toxic materials. This can be achieved by opting for bulk purchases, bringing reusable containers to the store, and avoiding single-use items such as straws, water bottles, and disposable coffee cups.
Zero waste in the Business sector
Communities and businesses can also play a crucial role in promoting Zero Waste practices. This can include implementing recycling and composting programs, encouraging sustainable practices among employees and customers, and supporting green initiatives in the community. Zero Waste efforts have been increasingly present in CSR reports.
The economical benefits of Zero Waste
Implementing Zero Waste strategies is not only benefitial for the environment, but it can also lead to non-neglieable economic benefits. By reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills, communities can decrease costs. Additionally, recycling, repairing and composting are key actitivties supporting job creation, utimately suppporting local economies.
Zero Waste, a solution for a greener future?
Overall, the Zero Waste philosophy is about rethinking the way we consume and dispose of resources, and it's about creating a more sustainable future for all. It's about designing products and systems that are intended to be reused, repaired, refurbished, or recycled. It's about recognizing that waste is not an inevitable by-product of human activity but rather the result of poor design and inadequate planning.
Today, the Zero Waste approach is seen as a key strategy for achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, which calls for the promotion of resource-efficient and sustainable production and consumption patterns. However, all economies relying on the production and consumption of goods and services, the Zero Waste movement often faces great obstacles challenging consuming habits and behaviours. It is therefore often perceived as an idealistic, often naive unreachable goal by the Zero Waste detractors.
Zero Waste at home, what can we start doing?
Here are a few ways you can make your home more zero waste:
Coock at home. By coocing your favorite recipes at home, you will save on a lot of plastic and other packaging that usually wrap pre-made meals and other products.
Reduce your consumption of single-use items, such as disposable plates, cups, and utensils. Instead, use reusable items that can be washed and used again.
Bring your own reusable bags, containers, and water bottles when you go grocery shopping or out to eat.
Try to buy products with minimal packaging or packaging that can be easily composted.
Start composting food waste and yard waste to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.
Use cloth napkins, towels, and rags instead of paper products.
Use bar soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent instead of products packaged in plastic bottles.
Fix or repair items instead of buying new ones.
Shop at thrift stores and second-hand stores to reduce the demand for new products and packaging.
Remember, zero waste is a journey and it takes time and effort to change your habits. Be patient and kind with yourself as you work to make your home more sustainable.