Zero Waste as a Concept

Editorial

Zero waste is an engaging concept. Just think, if we actually achieved it, SWRC wouldn't need to exist anymore and all of us could move on to other things.

At the moment, of course, we have quite a long way to go before we get to zero waste. Canada diverts about 24% of materials from disposal. Still, it’s a target to shoot for.

But how do we get there? As individuals, it’s a pure struggle to achieve zero waste. Sarah McGaughey has been giving it an honest try. With enormous effort, she managed to not produce any waste for a month. And she didn’t take the easy way out either — she limited how much recycling she did and made sure that when she was away from home she didn’t create waste either. Sarah also notes that she spent most of a year trying to find places that sold the products she wanted in a form that produced no waste.

Kudos to Sarah on this achievement, but if we want to get to zero waste, it can’t be this hard. It’s a challenge for communities who want to get to zero waste too. Even with considerable efforts to recycle, compost and otherwise divert materials, there will be things that end up getting landfilled because of how they are put together.

Consumers and municipalities are at the end of the production stream. We have to take whatever is given to us, the results of decisions made at the beginning of the production process. Design for environment and extended producer responsibility are key factors in getting to zero waste. Without these, it’s truly not possible.

When industry re-designs, great things can happen. The waste reduced when HP changed its printer cartridge packaging, for example, will be considerable. Consumers still get a printer cartridge, HP still gets to sell its product, and we all move closer to zero waste.

Now, if all companies adopted design for the environment and cradle-to-cradle responsibility, zero waste would be achievable and it would be a whole lot easier for consumers and communities to do their parts.

[Source: February 2007 WasteWatch ]