In an ideal world, living a zero-waste lifestyle means eliminating items that are sent to landfill and recycling centres. This might seem like an impossible challenge to many of us, but if we all take a few steps towards achieving this goal, together we can make a huge difference.
To help us reduce our waste, we need to remember the “5 Rs”
- Refuse over-packaged products and single use plastics.
- Reduce what you don’t need, simplify your life, donate unused items.
- Reuse bags, jars, bottles, clothes; repair what you can to extend the life of what you already own.
- Recycle what can’t be refused, reduced or reused.
- Rot your organic materials- nature’s way of recycling nutrients- either with a composter, wormery or food waste collection.
Whatever is left will go to landfill- the challenge is to decrease the amount that ends up in your rubbish bin!
Why is landfill bad?
There is no such thing as “away”. Everything we throw away is still here, buried in landfill sites. Much of what ends up in landfill will take years to decompose. Nappies, clingfilm and plastic bags can take 450-1,000 years and batteries could take up to a million years! The toxic mix of waste produces methane, carbon dioxide and other gases, and leaches chemicals into the soil.
Isn’t recycling the answer?
Recycling may seem like a good solution. However, many items cannot be truly recycled (made into an item of the same quality). Plastics in particular are downcycled- that is, used to create products of lower quality which become unrecyclable for economic and chemical reasons. Add to this the problem of inconsistent labelling and huge differences in what is collected in different areas, and it becomes clear that reducing the amount we recycle is also a good idea.
What difference can I make on my own?
Striving for zero waste isn’t about being perfect- it’s far better for many people to make one lasting change than for only a few to do it perfectly. Start by identifying small changes you can easily make- once they become second nature make a few more changes. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can make a difference. Share your experiences and inspire others to take action too!