What does it mean to go “Zero Waste”?

It is very important to understand that going “zero waste” is a very personal journey. Every individual deals with the switch to a sustainable lifestyle in a very personal style -- no two journeys are the same. Yet, it is important to know...every change counts! In her book ​101 Ways to Go Zero Waste​, Kathryn Kellogg describes the term “zero waste” in a simple yet comprehensive manner.

She says, “Zero Waste does not really mean ZERO. Zero is a goal, but it’s not possible in our current society. We will never achieve this goal without a massive overhaul and infrastructure change, but we can work toward it through individual action, group action, business action, and policy change.
Many people confuse zero waste with zero emissions. While zero emissions is an honourable goal, zero waste focuses on not creating trash. “

The goal of zero waste is to move to a lifestyle that mimics nature and the way our ecosystem works in harmony -- moving to a circular economy!

What is a Circular Economy?

The current society lives in a linear economy, where resources once utilized are sent to the landfill. Circular Economy focuses on eliminating sending waste to the landfill, mimicking nature, where there is no waste.



The circular economy is a markedly different way to do business, forcing companies to rethink everything, from how to design and manufacture products, to their relationships with customers. One of the biggest differences is the customer’s role. The focus is no longer on consumption, but instead on the use of a product. This places different demands on the business community to build long-term relationships in their business models. The advantage is that companies benefit from each other’s success in this cascade of different cycles.

Why do we hate the landfills? Human consumption is far more than what the planet can produce or degrade. Most waste does not even make it to landfills, instead of finding its way to oceans, rivers, and roadside dumps. Oceans, rivers, roadside dumps etc.

Landfills are not only huge mounds of trash -- they are toxic, methane-producing mountains which are not good for the planet. Due to weak regulation, anything and everything like batteries, bio-waste is sent to the landfill without proper checks. This makes landfills even more toxic. Landfills like Delhi’s Ghazipur landfill and Mumbai’s Deonar landfill have reached their limit but are still operational, making them breeding grounds for rodents and diseases. Landfill fires are common and are extremely toxic to the planet and its habitants.

According to a Central Pollution Control Board report of 2015-2016, over 1.3 lakh tonnes of solid waste is generated per day in India. Of the total waste generated, while over one lakh tonnes per day is collected, only a fraction – ~25,000 TPD is treated and ~47,000TPD is landfilled.

Is recycling a better option?

Unfortunately, no.

In the current scenario, our consumption is far higher than the existing capacity of recycling. There is a reason “Recycle” appears last in the age-old mantra of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. 

It is very important to understand the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy is a tool used in the evaluation of processes that protect the environment alongside resource and energy consumption from most favourable to least favourable actions. 

 

Sending waste to the landfill is the least preferable waste management model. The most preferred method is to create less waste, which is better than recycling and reusing resources.

“Let’s Reduce and reuse! But how?”

The most important part is to understand our “need”. This contributes to reducing the waste we might produce.

One of the best methods one can follow is to ask the following questions before buying anything new:

“Is the product an essential item whose functionality cannot be replaced by existing products at home?”

Example:​ Do you need a separate cleaning product for different items? “Am I buying this product because I need it or am I buying this because I want it?”

Example:​ Do you really need a new pair of jeans despite having 5 pairs of similar shades at home?

An added benefit to asking yourself these questions? It not only helps create less waste but also saves you more money in the process. 

 Money in the bank is better than money in the waste bin.

 Reusing is easier than we think. Buying products from second-hand markets, using what might not be useful to a family member or yard sales. Is your neighbour shifting out and does not want certain items of furniture? Buy it! Many facebook marketplaces sell secondhand goods which are very pocket friendly and are in good condition!

“Every person counts”

Just like in a democracy, every vote counts.. in reducing waste, every change counts.

The smallest of habit changes, like using reusable cloth bags instead of plastic bags, or starting a home composting unit to manage food waste in your kitchen, can make a huge difference when everyone comes together and the efforts add up.

For Earth’s Sake will be sharing tips and tricks every two weeks in our blog on how to switch to a zero-waste lifestyle!

Stay tuned! 


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