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Is Zero Waste Living Really Zero Waste?

Is Zero Waste Living Really Zero Waste?

I read a lot of books and articles that talk about Zero Waste living, and at some point I realised that I “thought” that I knew what “zero waste living” meant but that I’d never spent time looking into the “movement” and identifying what this is.

The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) is this:

Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health

So: anything that is one-use only, that ends up in a landfill, that can’t be repurposed, reused or recycled in some way is to be considered waste.

I have a bit of a problem with the zero waste folks and it’s this: going to a shop and leaving your waste behind doesn’t mean that you aren’t generating waste. It simply means that you aren’t taking it home and you’re not seeing that what you purchase is generating waste that ends up in the landfill.

I also find it interesting to see how many of the folks in the zero waste community boast about how they get rid of their Tupperware etc., which is mutli-use plastic, on which we have already spent significant resources (oil, transport etc.) – why get rid of these in favour of glass jars? Is this part of being zero waste or more of a lifestyle choice not to use plastic at all? I’m a big refiller of things. I keep jars from gherkins and pesto and use them instead of mason jars and that works for us. But I also keep the Fairy liquid plastic squirty bottle and refill it when it empties. The bottle that I use is years old. Ditto the window cleaning plastic bottle that we refill with our own vinegar cleaner. And so on. Is there a time when these containers may need to be recycled? Yes. But does it make me more virtuous to throw them out now, when they have dozens of years of use in them? Not to me.

A short post to get my thoughts “on paper” for future ponderings!