The whole Let’s Do It World team believes that a waste-free world is an ambitious but achievable aim. We are also convinced that every single effort towards reaching this goal matters. This is why we are thrilled to see the zero waste philosophy becoming more and more popular around the globe. Let’s get familiar with zero waste together!
In the following articles, we will guide you through the zero waste principles and show how you can produce almost no waste at all. Your trash bin might miss the “good old days” when it was full of packaging and single-use goods, but a zero waste lifestyle is not exclusively about physical trash. The concept goes hand-in-hand with conscious consumption of all resources, and with sustainable development in general. So these topics won’t be left out either.
Zero waste is not about putting all the trash you produce each year in a jar. It is not about limiting yourself. It is not about saying no to comfort. So what is it about?
A zero waste philosophy explains how to manage your waste “from cradle to grave”, so to speak, using the “3R” rule: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The order matters here. Keep reading to find out why!
Let us explain the main principle of zero waste - “reduce”. In a few words, if you do not produce waste in the first place, you do not have to work out what to do with it! So, prevention is where you should put the most of your energy.
Ask yourself these questions before buying something new:
So, if there is no option other than buying a new item - go ahead. Otherwise, slow down your consuming habits. Reduce the amount of new material things you buy.
The best destiny you can wish for stuff you already own is for it to be used as many times as possible. The longer you benefit from something, the longer you do not need to buy new, and the fewer resources are wasted as a result.
But it is nonsense to wear the same T-shirt, sit on the same chair, drink from the same cup lifelong, isn’t it? Stuff becomes shabby, goes out of style or you just stop loving them - that’s life. The reuse approach gives you a wide range of ideas about what to do with your possession when it suffers from one of these fates. Here are some examples:
Let’s clarify right away: recycling is a good thing! But it is not the first thing you should rely on in waste management. As we said in the beginning, the order matters. Only if you cannot reduce or reuse some kind of waste, then you can resort to recycling it. There are several reasons for this.
As recycling is such a positive thing, a reasonable question comes up: “Why should I watch how much waste I produce when it will be recycled anyway?” Here is an equally logical reaction: “Why should we use electricity, water, human and other resources to recycle something, if you could refuse or reuse it instead?” The answer to both questions lies in human behaviour. Recycling does not tackle the problem of overconsumption, it makes it worse. According to research, people use more resources if they have access to recycling services. This means that people often free themselves of responsibility for waste generation when they are recycling.
Furthermore, it is impossible to recycle everything. Recycling rules differ from country to country and even from city to city. Some regions have facilities that allow recycling more materials, but it is never 100%. The best example is plastic. In most cases, you can recycle only pure PET and HDPE packaging, but not other types of plastic or packaging that are made from different materials. Mixed materials are also a challenge to the recycling industry. Some types, like PVC, release toxins when melted and cannot be recycled at all. So, find out what is recyclable in your area before you start.
Handing over dirty secondary raw material (such as greasy unwashed food packaging, for example) makes the recycling process more complicated. It is hard and sometimes even impossible to recycle it - especially when it comes to paper. And when contaminated packaging mixes with clean items, it can spoil the whole recycling batch.
Finally, post-consumer recycled materials can rarely be used for products that come into contact with food. Contaminants from secondary raw material may appear in the final product made from recycled material. A producer of recycled food-contact packaging must run a lot of tests to ensure that pollutants cannot get to the final product.
So, recycling is a must, but it cannot happen without consumption reduction if we’re aiming for true sustainable development.
Only if the afore-mentioned steps are impossible, energy recovery (getting energy from waste) and disposal could take place - but these are the worst of all options. This waste management hierarchy is adopted in the EU, Canada, the US, Singapore, South Korea, the UK and Brazil. Citizens of these and many other countries are trying to manage their waste effectively - with varying levels of success. But the largest share of responsibility for sustainable waste management lies with producers. Hundreds of NGOs, including ours, are urging companies to move to a circular economy and enable greater reuse and recycling possibilities.
Even if in your region you are not officially required to follow the 3R rule, the best thing you can do is to do it nonetheless. Be the change! Show others that zero waste is not fiction - it becomes a reality thanks to every single human who REDUCES, REUSES, RECYCLES!
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