What is Zero Waste?

The Sustainable Choice

Zero waste is a philosophy that encourages the reuse of materials and products with the goal that no trash be sent to landfills or incinerators. The Zero Waste Alliance (ZWIA) defines the philosophy:

“Zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

The zero waste philosophy means companies should designed and manage products and processes to avoid and eliminate toxic wastes, reduce the volume of materials being thrown into landfills and conserve and recover resources without burning or burying waste.

What’s Wrong with Landfills?

On average, we send 4.4 pounds of trash to the landfill every day. We have Earth Overshoot Day every year and, in 2018, that date fell on August 1. As of Earth Overshoot Day, we are officially consuming 1.7 earths– meaning we have an overconsumption problem. Landfills are filling quickly and contributing to the overconsumption problem.

Beyond overconsumption, there are more issues with landfills. Landfills are responsible for 20 percent of the methane emissions in the United States and don’t allow for the proper decomposition of natural materials. Toxins from improperly disposed of items such as cleaners, batteries, motor oil, light bulbs, smoke detectors and other items that should never be in a landfill leach into the soil, enter the water system and make their way to the ocean and groundwater as it rains.

Will Recycling More Make it Better?

We can’t recycle our way to sustainability. There’s too much material to process and we’re consuming way too much; even if recycling plants could catch up, they would quickly be overwhelmed once again. Recycling should never be the first line of defense, that’s why it’s at the end of the saying “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.

Waste prevention may start at a systematic level, but everyone can do their part in attempting to become zero waste.

Easy Steps to Becoming Zero Waste

We didn’t start consuming 1.7 earths overnight and we won’t reach zero waste overnight, either. But, we can all take small steps towards a zero waste lifestyle to reduce or reuse before we recycle. To start living a zero waste lifestyle, we can:

  • Ask for no straws when out to eat
  • Use reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones
  • Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues
  • Donate gently used items for someone else to reuse
  • Turn old sheets and towels into rags, napkins, cloth produce bags and more
  • Avoid palm oil products
  • Use bar soap instead of liquid soap
  • Meal plan to avoid food waste (and then compost!)
  • Pack lunch instead of eating out
  • Ditch paper towels in favor of cloth
  • Go paperless for all bills
  • Avoid receipts
  • Visit the farmers market instead of buying plastic-wrapped produce from the grocery store
  • And more

Zero waste is a big challenge. No matter what, at the heart of any waste management program is a solid understanding of the process and where our waste goes in order to avoid excess waste. Planning ahead on how to manage challenging items, reusing an old item, donating items in usable condition and more can help lead us to a zero waste lifestyle.

Most people don’t think too much about the trash we throw away. But, while the majority doesn’t think too much about waste, some of us think about it a lot. At Patriot Sanitation Management, we’ve made it our business to figure out how to generate less, dispose of less and manage waste better. To learn more about out out services and how we can help you reduce, reuse and recycle, contact us today for your free commercial or residential waste removal estimate.