When I first became interested in the concept of ‘Zero Waste’, it seemed like such an easy to understand, if not always easy to follow, set of ideas to reduce my impact on the environment. By avoiding single-use plastic, buying food unpackaged (or if not possible, in paper, glass or metal), reducing and reusing the waste I created, I could reduce my carbon footprint and ‘do my bit’.
I was very proud that our ‘black’ bin (i.e. waste that would be landfilled or incinerated) went out just once or twice a year, got excited about milk bottle deliveries instead of throwing away plastic cartons, and carefully packed all my reusable ‘essentials’ to go on holiday – bamboo cutlery, reusable coffee cup, solid shampoo and more.
But I’ve come to realise that this idea of ZW is too simple and isn’t really tackling the actual problem or source of all this waste. With daily news stories of a growing planetary emergency of climate change and biodiversity loss, I propose to you now that we need a rethink of how we ‘do our bit’ and what ZW really means.
No simple solutions
Thanks to the work of campaigners, activists and the BBC’s Blue Planet II series, awareness of the seriousness of plastic pollution is greater than ever before. For people who had lived through years of trying to refuse plastic straws, carrier bags and get their takeaway coffee in a reusable cup, only to be met with strange looks and embarrassing refusals, it was the dawn of a new era.
It was a lovely surprise when coffee shops started offering money off for using your own cup. And much easier when supermarkets starting presuming you would bring your own bag. I was among many people celebrating this new, plastic-reduced world, which was surely only a good thing for the planet, right?
Wrong. Well, potentially wrong. Continue reading “Rethinking Zero Waste”