The Zero Waste movement began almost a decade ago as a way of addressing environmental and climate concerns by reducing the amount of waste we produce. In the years since, the movement has become tightly integrated with sustainability, environmental protection, and so on. Unfortunately, Zero Waste is like so many other movements in that it is largely misunderstood.
We often talk about Zero Waste in terms of recycling. It is something that is frequently brought up, even in our industry. The difficulty is that people conflate things like industrial plastic recycling with eliminating all such plastic waste. But that is not what Zero Waste is really about.
If your knowledge of the Zero Waste movement is limited, here are five important things you need to know:
1. The Definition of Zero Waste
The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) was established in 2002 to create and implement standards designed to guide the global Zero Waste movement. Their original definition of ‘Zero Waste’ has evolved over time. Its most recently updated definition is as follows:
“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 threaten the environment or human health”.
As you can see, nowhere in the definition does the ZWIA mention eliminating 100% of the waste humanity produces. More on that in a minute. Rather, their fundamental purpose is to eliminate waste that threatens the environment or human health. That makes a difference.
2. Recycling Is a Big Part of It
As you might expect, recycling is a big part of the Zero Waste philosophy. So are reusing and repurposing. The thinking is that we can reduce waste by recycling, reusing, and repurposing as much as possible. If we can successfully stretch everything we produce as far as its limits will allow, we will ultimately produce less in the long run.
3. Systemic Changes Are Required
In order to advance the Zero Waste Concept as far as it will go, systemic changes are needed in how we produce things. For the record, this is something we have been talking about for quite a while at Seraphim Plastics. If we change the way we manufacture and utilize all sorts of plastics, including industrial plastics, we will ultimately be more successful at recycling them. This will help reduce plastic waste.
4. Clean Manufacturing Is Needed
The Zero Waste movement relies on changes in manufacturing to help achieve its goals. Simply put, the world needs to adopt clean manufacturing. This may be the hardest step of all. Clean manufacturing is manufacturing that does not produce toxic emissions or waste products that threaten water, land, or air. Likewise, what ultimately comes off the production line is safe, environmentally friendly, and sustainable.
5. It Cannot Eliminate All Waste
Despite Zero Waste’s lofty goals, the most important thing to know is that it cannot eliminate all waste. The laws of both physics and nature dictate as much. As long as there are living creatures on the Earth, waste will be produced. It cannot be helped.
Is this to say that Zero Waste is too lofty a goal to pursue? Absolutely not. We should still do everything we can to reduce the amount of waste we produce. Waste is, by definition, unnecessarily wasteful. The world cannot go wrong by producing less of it.
We are doing our part by recycling industrial plastic waste. If you have plastic waste to recycle, or you are looking to purchase recycled plastic regrind, contact us for more information.