‘every year we dump a massive 2.12 billion tonnes of waste. If all of this was put on trucks, they would go around the world almost 24 times! This stunning amount of waste is generated as more than 90% of the stuff we buy is trashed within 6 months.’
A Few Facts About Wastage:
- Humans now buy a million plastic bottles a minute. Most of this plastic ends up in the ocean. By 2050, the ocean will contain more plasticby weight than fish.
- We throw away 7.2 million tons of food every year, most of which is edible. Meanwhile, 1 in 7 people in the world do not have enough to eat.
- About 0.1 million tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated every day in India. That is approximately 36.5 million tonnes annually.
- In the major Indian cities, the per capita waste generation ranges from 0.2kg to 0.7kg.
There are many other shocking facts about waste which we have no clue of. Thus, a need to understand the increasing waste generation, and its impact on the environment is necessary.
Global Waste Trade:
The global waste trade (Toxic and hazardous wastes are sold by developed countries to poor developing countries, thus the wealthy nations export their problems to poor countries) has created enormous dumpsites in poor countries, which poses a serious threat to human health and environment in the communities they locate in. More than 64 million people are affected by dumpsites which are created by the global waste trade.
Why Zero Waste Living?
During the 20th century, as the consumer societies developed due to growth of population and urbanization, waste production increased tenfold. This urban waste generation continues to go up at a very high rate. Thus, there is now a need for us, as humans to understand the needs of the environment and our future and thus work towards “Zero Waste Living”.
What is Zero Waste Living?
Zero Waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threatens the environment or human health.[i]
Zero Waste is a movement to reduce the amount one consumes and consequently throws away. It is a set of principles which focuses on waste prevention that encourages reusing of products. The goal is that no trash is to be sent to landfills, oceans, etc. In a zero waste system, a product/material will be reused till the optimum level of consumption.
But, when we talk about zero waste living, zero is just a goal, something we cannot fulfill as we do not live in a perfect zero waste world. Plastic, trash, waste- it happens and it is out of control. What we see is only the 30%, the other 70% is lost while manufacturing. Eg. When we buy a reusable bottle from a store, what we don’t see is the pallet in which it came, and it being wrapped in plastic.
“Zero waste aims at eliminating as much trash from the household as possible,” Bea Johnson, blogger and author of the bestselling book, Zero Waste Home, said. “What it ultimately does is translate into a simple, richer life based on experience instead of things.”
How to Get Started?
As several zero waste veterans have stressed that, “no one goes zero waste overnight”. But, here are a few measures one could consider:
- The 5Rs: The 5Rs are the five rules for anyone looking to live a zero waste life. “Refuse what you do not need. Reduce what you do need. Reuse what you consume. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. And rot (compost) the rest.”
- Start Eating Real Food: It is advised to people to cut back on packaged foods and reach for natural food like fruits, vegetables and anything that doesn’t come in packaging.
- Learn to Say No to Little Things: Whether it’s a business card at a meeting, disposable pen from a conference, a plastic bag at a store, or any other such thing, no matter how small, it is crucial to understand it’s worth and need.
- Join Communities Supporting Zero Waste: To keep learning new and helpful tips and stay motivated, seek out zero waste communities, whether online or in person.
- Try Using Less of Everything: “I use very little dish soap, laundry detergent, body soap, and toothpaste,”Jonathan Levy, a zero-waste project manager in Los Angeles, California, explained.
Levy, who used to work in supply chain management at a retailer warehouse, sought out a zero-waste lifestyle after seeing massive amounts of waste produced in the warehouse daily. “Most consumer products are designed to dispense or encourage you to use way more than you actually need,” he said.
- Add Essential Products in Your Life: Here are some essentials which by keeping it with yourself will help cut waste.
- Reusable Water Bottle: Plastic bottles should be among the first things that one should give up in a zero waste lifestyle. Instead, investing in a reusable bottle is way better.
- BYOJ (Bring Your Own Jar): When storing food, drinks or other supplies, try eliminating ziplock bags and plastic boxes, jars and replace them with glass jars.
- Cloth Bags and Tots: Cloth bags are essential for buying stuff in bulk. A cloth bag can be made by sewing your own old shirts or sheets. Reusable paper and cloth bags cut plastic while shopping.
- Reusable Straws and Utensils: Eliminate single-use plastic straws, instead use reusable straws made up of bamboo, stainless steel, glass, etc. Same goes for utelsils.
- Handkerchiefs: Using handkerchiefs while cleaning your hands and face are to be used. This will help to cut use of tissue papers and napkins.
Zero Waste Living is a challenge, but a challenge worthy enough to help conserve the world. Rosquillas reminds that the words “zero waste” serve as more of an idealistic motivator, and in the end, the overall goal is to simply lessen the amount of waste you produce. “Remember that it’s a journey, so don’t beat yourself up when trash happens,” she said.
Try doing small things, like composting at home, giving a utensil a second life, not bringing things unless you actually need, etc. What matters is doing the best we can, and starting small. As, small acts done by many people add up to a massive impact.