Zero Waste Week is taking place this week, the first full week in September.
Zero Waste week was founded by Rachelle Strauss in 2008 and began as a national campaign in the UK. It is now recognised worldwide.
You’ve no doubt heard of the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These terms were first popularised in the late 1970s.
In 2013, Bea Johnson gave the world the Five Rs in her book 'Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste.' They are: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. I've added Rethink before them as having the right mindset is the first step to making a change.
I feel that Zero Waste as a term is off putting as it is very difficult to avoid creating waste altogether. I prefer to think of it as going zero waste or becoming more low waste.
Let's start with a definition of what the term 'Zero Waste' actually means.
Zero-Waste is about eliminating the accumulation of waste in landfills/incinerators. It is about re-evaluating the structure of our current economy and lifestyles, with hopes to evolve into a more circular one, keeping materials, components and products in-use for as long as possible.
The 6 Rs of Zero Waste
Changing your mindset and rethinking your lifestyle and buying habits is the first step towards Going Zero Waste.
Refusing helps eliminate a lot of waste from the start. It's about saying “no” to free stuff that becomes instant waste. It takes a bit of practice though! We're all conditioned to say yes and accept pens, magazines, flyers and anything else because it's free.
Saying no to these means you don't have to dispose of them later. Use your phone to take a photo of a flyer, bring a pen with you.
Simply reduce what you're purchasing by being mindful about what you need and want. Before making purchases, ask yourself if you really need this item. If you do, look at the quality. While price is a huge factor, try to find the best quality in your budget. Well-made products will last longer, reducing the times you'll need to repurchase. Take care of your possessions by following cleaning instructions and labels so everything lasts a long time.
Reusing, repairing and rehoming go hand in hand. When you're deciding whether to throw something out and buy a new one, ask yourself if you can find a way to reuse, repair or rehome it.
This applies to clothing, furniture and technology. If your phone or laptop is broken, instead of immediately purchasing a new one, seek repair options first. You can also reuse by buying second hand.
Whilst we should definitely recycle, it is not the perfect solution to getting rid of waste. We need to try to avoid plastic packaging (driving down demand for plastics) and make use of materials that can be composted (driving up demand for alternative packaging)
Pop food scraps in your compost bin. Use a waste disposal company or home compost bin and use it to feed your garden in time.
Link in with a local gardener who may take your food scraps for their compost heap if composting is not an option for you.