For the love of zero waste

Today, plastic is a part of our day-to-day lives whether we like it or not. In many forms it fulfils a deserving purpose, yet all too often, it’s life expectancy is far too short.

According to the BBC, every minute of every day, a truckload of plastic enters our oceans. In the same time frame, a truck load of plastics is dumped in a developing country that simply doesn’t have the capacity to deal with it.

As consumption around the world continues to grow, many communities are slowly beginning to wake up to the reality of and ask questions about, where their waste goes. Even as we prove our commitment by diligently organising and dividing our recycling, it is then being sent to all corners of the earth by the councils and waste management companies we trust to manage our recycled rubbish responsibly. What more can we do?

Over the past year, the term ‘zero waste’ has been catapulted to the forefront of the minds of those in the sustainability world and beyond. Simply put, living a zero waste lifestyle can be defined as not sending anything to landfill and only producing waste that can be either recycled or composted.

Sadly for many, adopting a 100% waste-free lifestyle is currently an unrealistic ambition and a daunting task. Primarily, due to our dependence on the long-entrenched systems and supply chains embedded in our societies. They need to be completely disregarded or redesigned if we’re to see mass improvements. A mammoth task in anyone’s mind, but one that must be tackled head on by the governments and businesses we support.

As the pressure we feel as individuals to reduce our waste compounds, it is all the more apparent that this must be felt and shifted to those with the power to action change on a large scale. As a consumer, our purchasing choices are a vote on the ballot paper of the environmental campaign we’re all currently facing. If businesses large and small take their responsibilities seriously, it will make zero waste increasingly accessible for all. Let’s use our spending power for good and support those companies that are willing to take on this challenge with us!

All too often we’re led to believe that the key to going zero waste is through purchasing eco alternatives to the unsustainable products we already use, whether that be a metal straw or a cotton tote bag, this is broadly counter-intuitive. Why not simply go without a straw all-together or use one of the many old plastic bags hoarded in the kitchen cupboard? If we are to truly adapt our lifestyle, surely the most effective change we can make is to reuse, recycle and repurpose that which we already own. We must all be open to educating ourselves and learning new skills to embrace our new responsibilities too.

We should also be conscious of the negative impact the pressure from some campaigners to be ‘all-in’ can have on the movement – making it feel even more out-of-reach. You’ll never achieve a leap so large in one go, so why bother at all? In reality, we’re all going to need to grab a water on-the-go at one point or another, and the guilt of doing so can’t stop us engaging with the fight as a whole. Only when governments, businesses and communities come together to find solutions will we be able to live the zero waste dream without sacrifice!

Five simple questions to ask yourself on your journey to zero waste:

  • Do I really need to buy this item?
  • Is there a plastic free alternative?
  • How can I reuse or repurpose this?
  • Where can I recycle responsibly?
  • Can I shop second-hand for my next purchase?