The term Zero Waste is self-explanatory. In simple terms, it aims to send no waste or zero waste to dumping grounds. Zero waste means reducing what you need, reusing as much and many times as you can, sending less amount of waste to recycling centers, and composting the waste that cannot be recycled.
Zero waste is actually about redefining the entire system. Today, we all live in a linear economy, where we extract and exploit resources from the earth and then throw them into dumping grounds. The main aim of zero waste is to move to a circular economy where trash does not exist anymore. This type of economy copies nature in that there is no waste in nature.
Rather than throwing away resources, we can create a system where all resources can be reused and resumed back into the system.
The cosmetics and beauty industry generates tons of plastic- approximately 120 billion units of packaging per year. Most personal care and beauty products have a lot of unnecessary packaging. An average American citizen throws away 4.4lbs of waste to dumping grounds each day. We have a disposable lifestyle today, where we do not value the resources we get and consume too many of them.
Every year Earth Overshoot Day is conducted to mark when humans have consumed all the resources the planet can sustainably produce for the coming year. Earth Overshoot Day was on 2nd August 2017- that means we are consuming around 1.5 Earths.
Besides overconsumption, dumping grounds or landfills are extremely dangerous. Landfills generate around 20 percent of all methane emissions in the United States. Chemicals from batteries, cleaners, electronics, and more leach into the soil and runoff into the ocean and groundwater.
Large amounts of waste do not even enter landfills. It remains on the sides of roads or enters the ocean. Among waste, plastic is the deadliest as it degrades human and planetary health. Each microplankton in the ocean has around 36 microplastics to match. Plastics break down into tiny pieces that end up in 90 percent of drinking water, both tap, and bottled water worldwide.
Several people raise the question: Isn’t recycling the solution? Sadly, no. Recycling cannot get humanity out of this disaster. There is simply too much waste or plastic to process, and humans consume so many resources. Thus, recycling is not the perfect solution. Only 9 percent of all plastic on the planet has been recycled.
Recycling should not be the first solution to plastic or waste pollution- there’s a reason it is last in the 3R’s. Most recycling in the United States is not processed. This does not mean that people should stop recycling. Even though it is not the perfect solution, it is part of a solution. Understanding the disadvantages of recycling can help people recycle better and rely on it less.
In this situation, zero waste is the best solution to minimize waste.
How Can Zero Waste Help?
Zero waste protects the environment, supports a strong economy, and benefits communities. Zero waste can be a major part of the climate change strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its approaches also help conserve natural resources and minimize the pollution from extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.
Its approach also helps build community capacity, protect the community’s health, and support marginalized communities. A zero-waste approach must ensure that every individual has access to tools that help reduce, reuse, and recycle waste at home and work.
The importance of zero waste is becoming more and more obvious. It helps raise awareness and discussions about ecological degradation, climate change, and social justice. The true goal of zero waste is to minimize waste in dumping grounds and to reinvent the entire cycle of resource extraction, consumption, and waste management so that resources are not wasted. It challenges the systems and habits existing in the world today.
Zero waste confronts all types of waste, be it wet or dry or electronic or textile waste. If a single person tries to reduce his/her amount of waste generated for one year, it can save hundreds of pounds of waste from landfills- proving that one person can definitely make a difference.
Suggestions from the Environmental Protection Agency support zero waste as a way to tackle waste pollution in landfills and even mitigate climate change. The EPA has mentioned some methods, which include source reduction and composting- components of zero waste.
It also has its challenges. Its success depends on the location you live at, the environment, the climate, and the helpful options you have available. For instance, if your municipality allows curbside composting and recycling programs.
In conclusion, it is important to understand that not being able to practice zero waste perfectly should not demotivate you from doing what you can, with what you have, to reduce your carbon footprint or environmental impact.
Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.