Gaining momentum recently in the realm of environmentalism is zero waste living, an idea to reduce human impact on the environment by attempting to keep waste for landfill to a minimum. It sparked my attention a short while back in the way most things do nowadays, I saw the hashtag #zerowaste in random people’s Instagram captions, I had to research into this relatively recent eco friendly movement.
Although debated, many accredit the idea of zero waste living to Bea Johnson. A California resident, Johnson committed to zero waste back in 2008, along with her husband and two children. ‘We not only feel happier, but we also lead more meaningful lives based on experiences instead of stuff’ Johnson writes and with a best selling book and tour, zero waste seems to be spreading across the world. Yet whilst Johnson claims to be ‘inspiring thousands of people throughout the world to live simply’ many others are wondering how the movement has positively impacted the environment and how living zero waste can be done.
For the first and quite open question: the concept of zero waste living impacts the environment positively by sending less single use and disposable items to landfill. Those participating in the movement have been purchasing their food from zero waste shops that allow customers to bring their own jars and containers to fill up from dispensers. This way, there is no plastic packaging or other waste involved that would usually be sent to landfill.
Some plastics can take a very long time to degrade and whilst they do, they pose a risk to marine life that could digest the waste or get caught up in it. Additionally, small bits of plastic are toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer. These end up in the guts of animals or wash up on shorelines, where humans are most likely to come into direct contact with the toxins. According to a 2014 statistic, the UK generated 41.9 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste for that year, and those living zero waste would by definition of the movement, be creating minimum waste that could be contributing to landfill.
Bulk stores aren’t the only way zero waste can be achieved however, especially when you don’t live locally to the increasing amount of these zero waste shops. I went to my nearest supermarkets and browsed the aisles to see to what extent of my shopping could be bought plastic free, much to the alarm of shoppers realising I hadn’t picked anything off the shelves in the hour I was there. Switching to putting loose fruit and vegetables in my basket would cut down on plastic packaging I realised, and I found that some supermarkets would let me buy loaves of bread just as they were. Other ways zero waste shoppers stick to their movement is by choosing products in jars, tin or paper packaging which can be recycled and don’t pose the same environmental problems as plastic.
It seems more and more people are choosing to reduce their plastic. One pair of zero waste shop owners even being asked for advice ‘we are getting calls every week from around the country from people wanting to set up something similar in their towns’ prompting the idea that plastic free living is expanding and becoming more popular. With the current question on everyone’s lips of planet or plastic it seems as if zero waste may be a great idea to curb the plastic addiction that ruins so many global ecosystems.
If adopted by many this eco friendly movement may have a hand in changing attitudes of consumers and answering the question – Planet!
image credit Daniel Nebreda
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Environmental writings and NGO volunteer