Zero Waste is…. Why it’s good….
Zero Waste put simply, is – eliminating or significantly reducing waste entering into landfill.
My approach to zero waste is intuitive. Sending things to landfill seems unnatural, it doesn’t feel right to use something once then bury it in the earth. Aside from intuition it’s also common sense. If I can make or grow something myself easily then I’ll do it. Or, if I need to buy something I’ll use my own bag or container because they are sturdier, look nicer and it means I don’t have to deal with rubbish afterwards. If I do end up with a packaging I’ll reuse it if it’s appropriate to do so or I’ll be sure to recycle it. The last option being sending it to landfill.
Sending less to landfill has obvious benefits to the environment, but also on one’s overall health; people who have adopted a zero waste lifestyle report that it has had a positive effect on their personal health due to consuming less processed foods.
However, zero waste is more than waste reduction. It is a return to what once was, and should be normal behaviour. It addresses many things in our current society that have become ‘the norm’ such as rampant consumerism, a throw-away culture and an insecure food system.
Here is an in depth definition of zero waste from the Zero Waste International Alliance that has been peer reviewed:
“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.
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.”
The waste hierarchy:
The visual shows the most preferable action to the least in order to reduce waste.
A few simple tips for reusing:
- Reuse glass jars for storing food, craft items, pens and pencils
- Before recycling paper reuse the other side of printed paper and cut to size to use for shopping lists
- Old towels make great cleaning rags
- Pillow cases can be turned into handy cloth bags if you can sew a straight line
- Reuse glass bottles or jars for vases, home made preserves
How to recycle from the kerbside at home.
Kerbside recycling is available in most areas in NZ check your local council for recycling information.
How to recycle when out and about
Recycling facilities in public areas are a fairly recent service. Recycling bins are now popping up in areas that have high pedestrian rates and frequented areas such as service stations, shopping malls, tourist hot spots, bus stops and playgrounds.
Soft plastic recycling is now available at selected supermarkets and retailers. See here for more information http://www.recycling.kiwi.nz/soft-plastics
There are also community recycling centres scattered throughout NZ that provide a valuable service to communities in terms of landfill diversion, local employment, community cohesion and education.
Go to: http://communityrecyclers.org.nz/community/ and filter by ‘Reuse’ to access a list of community recycling centres currently operating in New Zealand.
Basic recycling logos in New Zealand
Usually if something is recyclable it will have a triangular logo on it as pictured below.
Plastics include a number in the centre of the logo (see below). The number is a plastic identification code.
This is a useful resource from Auckland Council that gives comprehensive information on recycling www.makethemostofwaste.co.nz
There are online recycling directories such as the Auckland Recycling Directory that can direct you to recycling facilities for items that may not be accepted in kerbside collections. (Check with your local council for a recycling directory).
New Zealand’s official recycling signage that has been adopted by Waste MINZ can be found here. http://www.wasteminz.org.nz/pubs/ronz-symbols/
Links for more information on reusing things or reducing waste.
The Rubbish Free website is a comprehensive resource on ways to reduce waste. It’s packed with practical advice and product information that is relevant to New Zealand. It’s run by my friends Waveney Warth and Matthew Luxon who are two amazing people in the waste minimisation community. Also coming soon is a New Zealand Zero Waste online hub that will profile NZ Zero Wasters’ and include relevant information, services, events and news with social media outlets. The site name is www.zerowasteclub.co.nz , currently the url will take you to the Rubbish Free website until the site is up and running.
Ideas for reducing waste
- Compost food scraps
- Avoid or reduce single use packaging
- Use reusable coffee cups
- Use reusable shopping bags
- Buy second hand
- Buy from bulk bins using own bags/containers
- Take your own container to the butcher/delicatessen
- Grow your own fruit and vegetables
- Join a community garden
- Eat real food
- Cook at home
- Bake or make something you would usually buy
- Use vinegar and baking soda for cleaning, (reuse and refill spray bottles)
- Use cloth wipes and cloth nappies
- Join a community group that has an environmental kaupapa
Food waste tips
- Plan plan plan! Before you do food shopping have at least three dinners planned in advance. Buy accordingly to avoid over-shopping.
- Eat leftovers for lunch
- Freeze excess cooked food if you don’t think you will get through it. Freeze in single serve containers to make it easy for taking to work/school.
- Avoid spoilt food – Cook, cover, chill.
- Freeze uneaten bread in a bag or container. When you have a bag full make breadcrumbs, keep breadcrumbs in the freezer to use in meatballs, rissoles and topping for bakes.
- Fruit not looking the best? Cut off any manky bits and stew it!
- Freeze bruised / brown bananas, peel first and cut into pieces. Use in smoothies, baking or making ‘nice cream’
- ‘Like’ the NZ Love Food Hate Waste facebook page for practical tips and advice
Candace Weir works in waste minimisation within community development. She writes about her zero waste journey on her blog www.realingi.wordpress.com