What is "Zero Waste"?
Zero Waste is a philosophy that seeks to maximize the recovery of resources we commonly throw away in our everyday lives. Much of what we call waste, or our discards, are potential resources for new products. Zero Waste practices aim to first minimize the production of discards, second direct the discards we have to reuse, recycling or composting and finally to manage what we have left as responsibly as possible. Aggressive Zero Waste strategies can recover the resource value of more than 90% of what we discard.
Zero Waste is also a powerful economic engine. By reducing the creation of discards, or waste avoidance, a person or business saves money by avoiding unnecessary products, packaging and stuff. Reusing, composting and recycling not only preserves the economic and environmental value of the original resource used to create the item; it creates jobs in recovery and re-manufacturing. Reuse, compost and recycle alternatives also avoid the cost of disposal in landfills or incinerators.
Zero Waste efforts must also focus on the design of products and processes to ensure that all of this stuff is created with an awareness of what will happen to it when it becomes a discard. Zero Waste principles can be used to limit the toxicity of products and processes further improving the environmental health of our communities.
The diagram below represents a sustainable approach to discard management. By adopting this hierarchy into our daily lives we can not only protect our environment, but we can create lasting jobs and economic opportunities.