Zero Waste is a widely used buzzword in recent years, but its definition is interpreted and used in very different ways by different people. To some, Zero Waste means zero landfill waste, but the intended definition of this term refers to the goal of actually preventing waste from occurring in the first place rather than focusing on disposal methods!
THE DEFINITION OF ZERO WASTE
According to Wikipedia:
’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’.
So, as it turns out, Zero Waste is about making huge changes to improve the world we live in, rather than focusing on the need to stop our landfill sites bursting at the seams.
TAKE – MAKE – DISPOSE
To strive towards waste prevention, we need to focus on ways to design out waste, abandoning our traditional linear economy, which is based on a model of ‘take-make-dispose’.
This model depletes resources and has lead us to the point we are at now, where we have been forced to become more responsible in our approach to waste, to lessen our negative impact on the environment.
Huge steps have been taken and recycling is now part of our lives, both at home and in the workplace.
As the infrastructure for processing and recycling waste materials continues to grow and develop, it is important to remember the importance of the word reduction.
Because unless we actually take steps to reduce waste rather than feeding the take – make –dispose model, (feeling guilt free when we dispose of our waste items responsibly), we cannot honestly claim to be moving towards the visionary goal of Zero Waste.
A CIRCULAR ECONOMY
In a circular economy, items are kept in use for as long as possible, so that their maximum value can be extracted before the end of their life.
Once an item has reached the end of its lifespan and it can no longer be used, it is regenerated and all materials are recovered, to minimise waste. This concept is taking on with some manufacturers and companies who are making huge changes in their approach to design.
CULTIVATING A COMPLETELY NEW APPROACH
When products are designed with the future in mind, the aspiration of Zero Waste is suddenly more tangible and real. Nothing lasts forever, so by constructing anything with that in mind, it is possible to make items and products that can be dismantled and reused easily at the end of their lifespan.
Many of the items that we discard are still working perfectly well, but because the technology has moved on since our purchase, we want or need to upgrade them. Other items are discarded because the battery no longer works and because of the way the product has been designed, there is no possibility of replacing it.
Simple changes like constructing electronic items using screws rather than glue, opens up the possibility to repair, upgrade and recycle our things rather than them becoming redundant in a short space of time. This is the type of approach that some of the greener manufacturing businesses are now beginning to adopt.
Along with changes in construction and design, the type of materials used in the manufacture of our products also plays a key role in working towards Zero Waste. Using good quality, pure materials rather than composites may cost more, but when designing for the future rather than now, this makes a huge difference to the way the materials are recovered and regenerated later.
IT’S A LONG ROAD AHEAD
With fast fashion, continual upgrades and consumers wanting (lots of) cheap goods, it certainly is a long road ahead, if we are aiming to emulate natural sustainable cycles. Let’s hope that more manufacturers jump on board, rethinking their approach to design from scratch.
So, is Zero Waste a realistic goal? Well it works well in nature, and as an aspiration I am all for it! What do you think?