how much waste are you for?
“Zero waste” is at once both the concept and the goal of eliminating waste altogether. Just as there is no waste in nature, proponents argue that the very idea of waste is unnecessary. Waste is a design flaw, and one that can and must be solved if we are to create a sustainable future.
Must-watch video: Story of Stuff shows just how unsustainable our current system is.
Trash and landfills are much more than unappealing eyesores. They are leading contributors to global climate change, air, soil and water pollution, and unsustainable consumption patterns.
Zero waste is part of a solution beyond our current recycling efforts that is being embraced and implemented by governments and businesses worldwide. Of course, advocates don’t expect literally no waste at all, but often use a 90% reduction as a benchmark.
You may not realize it when you’re tossing that water bottle into the recycling bin, but the bottle itself only represents a tiny fraction of the total waste generated. It’s the tip of the “wasteberg” – about 70 times more waste was created in the process of getting that product into your household. This is why increasing recycling is only part of the zero waste solution. Here are some other components:
Zero waste has five basic tenets
Redesigning products and packaging: Planning in advance to limit product resource consumption, toxicity, and waste, and recovering materials through reuse, recycling, or composting - designing products for recycling, not for the dump.
Producer TakeBack: Manufacturers are held responsible for the waste and environmental impact their product and packaging creates, rather than passing that responsibility on to the consumer. The end result is that manufacturers redesign products to reduce materials consumption and facilitate reuse, recovery and recycling.
Investing in Recycling, Not Landfills or Incinerators: Rather than using taxes to build new landfills and incinerators, communities can continue to invest in recycling facilities designed to take the place of a landfill or incinerator.
Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Wasteful and Polluting Industries: Pollution, energy consumption and environmental destruction start at the point of virgin resource extraction and processing. Manufacturers use virgin resources for raw material partly because tax subsidies and other social policies make this a cheaper and easier alternative than using recycled or recovered materials. Additional public subsidies exist to keep "disposal" costs through landfills and incinerators artificially low by not assigning significant costs to the harmful emissions produced by these facilities.
Creating Jobs and New Businesses from Discards: Wasting materials in a landfill or incinerator also wastes business opportunities that could be created if those resources were preserved. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance's report Wasting and Recycling in the United States 2000, "On a per-ton basis, sorting and processing recyclables alone sustains ten times more jobs than landfilling or incineration." The report adds, "Each recycling step a community takes locally means more jobs, more business expenditures on supplies and services, and more money circulating in the local economy through spending and tax payments."
- from Grassroots Recycling Network
Central Texas strives for zero waste
Austin and Travis County have become this first Texas governments to commit to a goal of zero waste! Austin is in the process of designing a Zero Waste Plan to reach that goal by 2040.
Click here to learn more about Austin's Zero Waste Plan.
However, dozens of cities around the country and world are already several steps ahead. San Francisco’s recycling rate is already approaching 70%. Two-thirds of the cities in New Zealand have adopted zero waste goals.
Click here to see a list of zero waste cities worldwide!