What is zero waste?
The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “ the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, packaging and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health”. Zero waste initiatives are programmes which have been into place to achieve the goal of generating zero waste via a variety of methods.
Why is zero waste important?
Zero waste is very important as it works to eliminate the overfilling of landfills, harmful emissions from the incineration of rubbish, harmful toxins from improperly disposed of equipment and machinery and the like.
Working towards zero waste involves the active efforts of all, ranging from the individual consumer and households to multinational corporations and governments. In order to actively work towards a drastic minimisation in waste, governments will have to work closely with waste management organisations in order to create successful initiatives for both the reuse and recycling of products currently considered as waste.
Reaching a zero waste status would mean that consumption has been reduced to a manageable level, recycling and composting efforts were effective in drastically combating waste, manufactured products would be used for the full life span of the product or as long as possible, and that the mindsets and focus of both individual consumers and manufacturers were aimed for sustainability.
A few zero waste initiatives
As travellers, it is important to be aware of the zero waste initiatives in global areas so that we can take care to the local preservation efforts and waste initiatives. Taking good care about the environment wherever one finds themselves is an admirable trait. There are many zero waste initiatives at both national and local levels, so it is good to become familiar with them. Below we are introducing a few, just to give an idea of what’s available.
The Korea Waste Management Network clearly maps out its ongoing initiatives to drastically reduce waste. Initiatives, such as eliminating single-use plastic bags, begin with the consumer and the consumer driven plastic use. Encouraging the use of reusable fabric shopping bags, as well as requesting that shops charge for the plastic bags used if the consumer desires it help to reduce plastic bag usage. Initiatives aimed at fast food franchises target the use of ‘disposables’ such as cups, straws and the like by introducing recycling programmes for these items as well as asking that non-disposable items be used, such as flatware and are instead washed and reused. These are a few of the very effective ways in which Korea is working to eliminate single use plastic waste.
Zero Waste France has taken the unique approach that reducing production and consumption will work to eliminate waste, as it is never generated in the first place. While this exact approach will be a long-term overall solution, additional steps are needed in the process of going zero waste. This is why recycling, composting and bio waste initiatives are commonplace. Another note-worthy initiative is that of extending the lifespan of consumer products. This could work to benefit many, as planned obsolescence in product and machine manufacturing has led to people purchasing more and generating more product waste as was done, say 30 years ago when products were made of high enough quality to last long.
The New Zealand Zero Waste Network has listed some of their initiatives for an extreme reduction in disposed of waste items. These range from available services for furniture and machine repair / upcycling, to recycled timber, metals and e-waste, as well as traditional methods such as recycling, composting and clothing reuse shops.
Zero waste during travel
The thought of working towards zero waste during one’s own travels may seem to be quite the difficult challenge. It is not. With some thoughtful consideration both before embarking and while in the destination, it is very possible to drastically reduce one’s disposable waste. Some things to consider for reduced waste travel:
- Use only re-usable containers which can be washed and re-used for items such as toiletry items, water bottles and even camping flatware can help to eliminate unnecessary waste.
- Take note of water or electricity restrictions in the destination and accommodation. Locations such as Cyprus, have very strict water usage restrictions in many areas in order to reserve clean water.
- Book your stay in sustainable or eco-lodges as recycling and composting are notable habits.
- Forego the daily washings of room linens.
One can find one’s own motivation for the reduction of waste and start to act by considering the waste in one’s own home. Simply considering, for example, if one more wear from clothing is possible before discarding it. Or even if the fabric is suitable for using as cleaning cloths before disposing of it, would allow for the extension of the life span of the item. These types of straightforward decisions are the basis of what the zero waste movement is all about.
If you are interested in zero waste initiatives in your own area, the Zero Waste International Alliance has listed the zero waste initiatives by country, from around the globe. You can find the list by clicking here.
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