What does it mean to be zero waste?

Table Of Contents

Zero waste is a mindset alteration! EPA explains zero waste to be “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

The concept of zero waste is a goal which is ethical & economical, to help direct people to altering their current lifestyle & begin practising ways to live more sustainably. Some would explain this a circular economy, which the Ellen Macarthur Foundation states, “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.”

Becoming zero waste helps to remove the environmental impacts of the waste materials we would produce, to help to conserve & recover the resources our planet produces instead of burning or burying them.

Materials which are buried & burned releases toxic materials into our environment which impacts the water we drink, the air we breathe & the land we walk on. Not to mention all the other lifeforms on our planet. We all use the same land, air & water to survive!

Going Zero Waste indicates “Instead of discarding resources, we create a system where all resources can be resumed fully back into the system.”

Zero waste is a way of life which not only makes your own life more fulfilling, but benefits every aspect of our world at the same time!

How can we live a Zero Waste life?

The main way to transition your lifestyle to a zero waste one is by applying the 5 R concept to everything you do. We shall briefly go into how this concept works, but if you’re interested in learning more, take a look at our blog post which addresses The 5 R’s Of Zero Waste?

The 5 R’s is a framework people can utilise to help reduce the waste they produce from their current lifestyle in the aim to hit a net zero. The 5 R’s are:

  • Refuse: Which is exactly what it says on the tin, say no to the products you don’t even need to begin with.
  • Reduce: The items which you have which don’t get used on a daily basis can be given to charity & help you focus on the products in your life which really matter.
  • Reuse: Make sure to only buy products that can be reused again & again & again. I think you get the point.
  • Recycle: This should be a concept which is not new to you. Apply the Refuse & Reduce concepts you should recycle anything else after this point.
  • Rot: This is where any biodegradable materials should be given back to the earth to rot & decompose.

Applying these 5 R’s will help you understand the products which are actually required in daily life, how to remove / exchange current products in your life which don’t fit your new zero waste lifestyle & how to discard these products in a way which is beneficial to the environment.

If you are interested in looking into the benefits of the 5 R’s in further detail, LAHS ECO Engineering do a great job of this. Check out their blog on What Are The Benefits Of Using 5R’s Of Waste Management?

What are the benefits of Zero Waste?

The key with zero waste is waste management, which in turn benefits the environment, communities & supports a strong circular economy.

Via Toronto Environmental Alliance

Environmental Benefits:

  1. Reduces the impact on the Climate

Zero waste has drastic benefits on our environment. As indicated by the EPA “42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.”

This figure is something that a zero waste lifestyle can definitely impact due to sourcing reusable, sustainable products & the recycling of products which don’t necessary fall under that bracket. In essence, reducing, reusing & recycling are the perfect method to help reduce your impact on the environment.

2. Conserves energy & resources

This is exactly what zero waste is all about! Zero waste living is all about creating a lifestyle which helps to conserve resources & to minimize pollution.

The extraction of raw material consumes huge abouts of energy & causes high level of pollution in the process of doings so. Once acquire a large amount of resources of used for a brief time & then end up in landfills to decompose for over 100s of years.  

The zero waste approach aims to conserve resources. Which in turn reduces the impact of the acquisition, manufacturing & transportation of new resources.

Economical Benefits:

  1. Jobs created by a circular economy

Focusing on a circular economy will create jobs focused around this new concept. From recycling to composting, new jobs will be created to fuel this circular economy.

Reusing & reducing materials will create new businesses to cater for this way of life. Repairing items such as tools & clothing creates new jobs on a community level.

Community benefits:

  1. Builds community spirit

Introducing the new jobs and roles as mentioned above on a community level will have a knock-on effect on the communities around these businesses. Distributing food to the people that need it will be one big way for a community to tackle their food waste problems.

Utilising compost generated from households is another way a community will be brought together to find a solution for their newly found resources. Tool / skill sharing is another lifestyle change that would need to be incorporated to aim to reduce as much waste as possible.

Bringing the community together. For more information check out Toronto Environmental Alliance blog post on Benefits of Zero Waste!

Does Zero Waste Make A Difference?

Yes – introducing the zero waste lifestyle into your lives can help to reduce single-use plastic products from your lifestyle in replacement of products which can be reused over & over again!

Zero waste living helps us move away from our current linear consumption models toward a circular one. It’s all about sustainable, reusable, long lasting products!

Is Zero Waste possible?

The vast majority of people agree that aiming for a net zero is the best way for humans as a species to live to benefit the environment to the best of our ability. But reaching a net zero can be challenging depending on the society you live in!

As stated by Waste 360, “Zero waste is a goal that we know we really can’t get to. But [it] also is a process, with very clear environmental, social and economic benefits. By working through the process, you get closer to the goal.”

Even though it may not be 100% achievable in some circumstance, there is no denying that applying the 5 R’s to your lifestyle can considerably reduce the amount of waste your produce & your impact on the environment.

Why Is Zero Waste Not Possible?

Zero waste is not always achievable due to the different types of environments people live around the world, in different types of society which cater for different needs.

Not everyone has access to a farmer’s market to be able to bulk shop & not buy items packaged in single-use plastic. Not every community has access to recycling centres. Not everyone has access to high quality reusable products to be able to sustain them for longer before purchasing new ones.

The zero waste concept should be modified to highlight the fact that a net zero can in some case not be achievable right now. However, this does not mean that the entire concept is not accurate. The 5 R’s can drastically reduce the environmental impact of your lifestyle & help you to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

By applying the 5 R’s concept to your lifestyle definitely has many benefits when compared to the linear consumption cycle a lot of us on our planet are currently doing. This modification times by millions would have a huge impact on the environment.

The requirement of new innovations to replace plastic packaging is essential to be able to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste we produce. Statista says “Since the industry began, annual global plastic production has exploded from some 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 billion metric tons in 2018.”

Moving away from clothing produced by fast fashion in favour of sustainable & functional clothing is imperative. Highlighted by BWSS, “Fashion—a $2.5 trillion sector—is the second most polluting industry on Earth, right behind oil. The pressure to reduce costs and speed up production time means that environmental corners are cut in the name of profit.”

We can do our part on an individual level, however there is still lots that can be done on an international level to make it more accessible for individuals to be able live a zero waste lifestyle, or as close as possible!

You may also like:

– What are the 5 R’s of zero waste?

– What is a zero waste kit?

– How can grocery stores go zero waste?

– Which country recycles the most?

– Tips on how to reduce and stop littering

– Are balloons bad for the environment?

– How to live waste free (on a budget)

– How much food is wasted in the US annually?

– What are the environmental benefits of zero waste?

– How to choose the right composter?

– What is considered zero waste?

– Zero waste products (shop)

– What are the different types of composting methods?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *