Zero Waste: What Is It?
In it's simplest definition, zero waste is the aim of sending nothing to landfill. From product packaging to food waste, it's all about reducing waste in every part of our lives with the sole aim to reach ... zero waste. It might never be possible to completely remove waste from our lives, but there are a huge number of ways we can all significantly reduce it. Brands are jumping on-board to provide more and more solutions to the current disposable society we live in.
Every year we have Earth Overshoot Day which marks when we have consumed all of the resources Earth can sustainably produce for the current year. We currently consume 1.6 Earths worth of resources.
As the dates show, we have been successfully using more resources than we can sustainably source for decades. Things need to change.
Whilst recycling can help reduce waste, according to the last Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report ( Nov 2019 ) the rolling 12-month waste from households recycling rate was 45.1%. 10.8% was disposed via landfill and a concerning 43.8% was sent for incineration. Think about how many bin bags you put out each week; not even half of that is sent for recycling. Try to visualise all your neighbours all doing the same, then expand that out to the next street, your entire city, and then the UK. It becomes unimaginable to picture just how much rubbish is being burnt. These are all resources that are being wasted. It is a completely unsustainable system.
Recycling should be seen as only a final solution and not a fix for everything. Of the 45.1% of rubbish send for recycling, a large quantity is plastic and paper waste. Plastic can only be recycled an average of three times before requiring new plastic to be added to the mix. Paper can be recycled an average of 5-7 times. For both, it depends on what type of paper or plastic you start with. The reason for this is degradation - recycling materials is a strenuous process, causing the fibres within materials to shorten thereby weakening them. Exceptions to this include metals and glass, which can be infinitely recycled.
Instead of trying to recycle materials, we should first ask if we need them at all - does everything need disposable packaging? Can we rework the system to make a lot of packaging redundant? We live in a flawed system but here are some steps we can take to combat it:
- Focus on only buying what we need and opt for second hand when possible.
- Reuse what we already have, opt for maintenance plans and repairing breakages rather than replacing.
- Pick products in sustainable packaging or even better, none at all. Avoid glass packaging due to it's weight which causes more carbon emissions.
- Choose reusable products over disposables whenever you can, such as shopping bags, ear swabs, napkins, handkerchiefs and menstrual cups.
- Freeze left over food and reheat safely for another meal instead of binning it.
- Opt for products without packaging, especially with regular purchases such as vegetables.
These are just a few of the many steps we can take to reduce our waste closer to zero. We might never get there, but that's not a reason to try and get closer.
When we talk about zero waste at Tecorra, we focus on the waste side of it. In reality, there are far more factors involved such as ethical sourcing, carbon footprint, environmental racism, and intersectionality, which are all interconnected. This leads to confusion, and lack of clarity can lead to a lack of action or clear direction for newcomers. We prefer to focus on labelling Tecorra as an enabler to sustainable living, not a zero waste store, which is easier to identify as a complex topic. But to some, they are one and the same.
There is a true solution to zero waste that can be implemented to drastically cut waste - the circular system, which will be the topic of our next post. At Tecorra, we aim to break down barriers stopping people from living sustainably, from education to pricing. Starting off small, we have big plans to tackle everything other stores that have been running for years aren't even attempting. By shopping with us, you are financing change towards a more sustainable future which is scalable nation-wide.