What do we mean when we talk about ‘waste’? Well, the official word is anything discarded after its primary use or is deemed worthless, defective or no use is waste. Which means it’s a broad spectrum covering everything from food, plastic and household items to electronic waste, heavy metals, and chemicals. And every year we ditch around 2.12 billion tonnes of waste globally. As the disposal of waste increasingly becomes a threat to human life and our environment, it’s clear we cannot continue along this path. Bottom line is, we must transition to a zero-waste approach.
Taking #LittleGreenSteps towards carbon neutrality will contribute towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production.
According to the Zero Waste International Alliance “Zero Waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging and materials without burning, and no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten environment or human health”. In a nutshell, zero waste means exactly what it says on the tin.
And everyone from individuals to businesses and governments must adopt and champion this philosophy.
As consumerism exploded in the 20th century, so did the levels of waste production. And it’s predicted that by 2025 we will produce three times more waste than was generated in 2009. If the entire population were to live the lifestyle of western consumers, we’d need up to five planets to absorb the waste we create. Put simply, we are living beyond our means.
Our landfills are overflowing, the health of over 64 million people is directly affected by dumpsites, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by weight, and toxic waste is increasingly being dumped by rich nations into poorer countries.
It’s simple: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
As an individual consumer, we have a huge amount of power to force real change when it comes to waste. And making the transition to a zero-waste lifestyle is easier than you might think. And it starts with your purchasing decisions, or the first ‘r’: reduce.
Before you buy anything, ask yourself whether you really need it. Reducing our consumption of everything, from essentials like clothing and food, to luxuries like electronics and beauty products, is the first step on the journey towards zero-waste.
Once you’re conscious of how much stuff enters your household, the next step is to make sure that things leave your house responsibly. Recycle, reuse, or rehome things that you no longer need or want. Separate your waste properly and deal with it responsibly.
Saying no to single-use items like takeaway cartons, plastic straws, bottled water, and plastic bags are all easy ways to reduce waste too. Start carrying reusable bags, containers, and a water bottle with you. And think about other products you currently use that can be replaced with a more sustainable option, like your toothbrush, tampons, and even your toilet roll.
But we also need businesses and governments to adopt zero-waste policies and approaches. We need to move away from the ‘take-make-waste’ linear industrial model, and transition to a circular economy model. What’s a circular economy? WRAP UK (a British charity tackling waste) summarise it perfectly as “keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life”.
Here are some easy to implement ideas that will help reduce your waste.
– Buy less
– Try food shopping in a zero-waste store
– Don’t waste food
– Try composting
– Invest in BYO resusables (like cups, cutlery, and water bottles)
– Always carry a reusable bag
– Say no to straws
– Try buying second-hand or vintage clothing
– Try clothes rental instead of buying new
– Use bar soap instead of bottled handwash
– Switch to shampoo and conditioner bars
– Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
– Invest in reusable cotton makeup removers
– Use Beeswax wrappers instead of clingfilm
– Ladies, ditch tampons and try a mooncup or period panties
– Donate unwanted items to charity
– Recycle (properly!)
– Lobby your local MP and write to organisations who aren’t moving quickly enough. Tweet them, challenge them, and keep asking the awkward questions until they start giving us better answers and solutions.