What is meant by Zero Waste?

So what is meant by zero waste? Are we expected to create completely and utterly NO waste at all? How is that even possible?! How can we live in todays society and not create ANY waste at all!

For most of us it isn't possible or is very difficult to be completely waste free but there are nearly always better alternatives or better choices to make with our lives and purchases that can help us to reduce our own personal waste mountain.

Start by thinking of the 3 'R's waste hierarchy. REduce, REuse and REcycle.

REDUCE - this is the most important and the best way to cut your waste.

Some examples of ways to REDUCE are; 

  • Say NO to plastic bags, I've been doing this since time began, back when some shops insisted I had to use their bag so I ended up leaving the store without purchasing! Just stick a bag in your pocket or handbag when you go out.Time to decompose 10-1000 years. 
  • Use you own reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup, reusable straw, cutlery or anything else that you would normally use just once. Its a terrible thought that your foam coffee cup that you used for just 30 minutes will sit in a landfill site for at least 50 years. And that plastic straw? 200 years! 
  • Find alternatives for plastic sandwich bags and cling film, which is single use, has potential health risks when used in the microwave and will not biodegrade. Great alternatives are fabric, washable sandwich wraps or pouches and beeswax wraps which last for years. 
  • There are lots of other ways to reduce your waste, probably the best and most simplest one is do you really need to buy that product? 

The second 'R' is REUSE - if you really need to buy that product is there a way to reuse that item more than once? 

Examples include; 

  • Reusing jars and bottles to store items in the kitchen. 
  • Making new clothes or bags from old clothes
  • Reusing paper for notes, scrap paper, fire lighting. 
  • Making a tyre swing or planter from old tyres
  • Giving unwanted items to charity shops where they can be reused by others

The third 'R' is RECYCLE.

Recycling is a great way to deal with aluminium cans, glass bottles, paper etc. but remember it is at the bottom of the waste hierarchy and should be treated as such. Is it possible to eliminate (reduce) that waste completely by not buying it?  If not is it possible to find another use for that product (reuse)? If neither of these are possible then your next best option is recycling.  Remember though recycling uses a lot of energy so although is a good way to deal with waste it still creates carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change so there may be a better choice.  Recycling is obviously much better than landfill, incineration or littering!

Everyone should be trying to reduce their waste creation as our world cannot cope with the amount that over 7 billion people make and we all need to do our bit. It would be very difficult to be completely zero waste but we can all make an effort to create less. It's all about changing habits, a little change each day can make all the difference. Good luck!