What is Zero Waste?
I have always found the term “zero waste” a misnomer. It has been described by waste industry professionals such as Waste Management as “eliminating the generation of materials that have no viable or economic option for end-of-use management.” The Zero Waste International Alliance takes the definition a bit further suggesting it is not only an ethical choice but also one with an economic impact that guides people to make lifestyle changes to end the use of landfills.
The benefits for local communities to find economic and social benefits by adopting a sustainable practice of diversion, the primary focus of the ZWIA, and the reality of achieving this change in behavior is not without significant hurdles. If all history is a crossroads, then the decision to change what seems to be hardwired into our biology may not be as easy as it seems. Certainly not as easy as simply suggesting the adoption of a zero waste policy.
Why is Zero Waste so Difficult to Achieve?
The history of human endeavors point towards an ongoing manipulation of the environment. And why not? Over the last 30,000 years, we seem to have developed the ability, at least in the face of what seem like finite resources and environmental limitations to use our incredible brain strength to redesign the world again and again to our liking. When one resource seems to be facing depletion, we reach for an innovative replacement. Not so much a cyclical event as a social reinvention that almost always has negative effects on the environment.
So what incentive do we have to actually try to create a zero waste policy on a large scale?
Is Zero Waste a Worthwhile Goal?
There is a fundamental difference between how and why. How is most often thought of as a point A to point B problem. Why looks at the relationship, however casual it might seem, between connections and determine the events in a pattern that, if done correctly, eliminate all other possibilities.
It has been my experience that in the world of zero waste, these two differences place businesses and their best intentions at a roadblock. Not a crossroads. If it was the later, there would be choices, some savory and some not.
The why might actually seem clear: You want to leave a legacy for your children and their children that shows you wanted to do the right thing. The how might even seem as if it can also be resolved by your best intentions.
This is fine if you are a household in a neighborhood that has numerous recycling options available and in many cases, actually come to your curb to retrieve them. Humans are not hardwired for convenience however, we are more than happy to take advantage of convenient opportunities.
Suppose you are instead a business? No matter the size, no matter where you are located, no matter what it is you feel as though you have to recycle, the process will cost money. Lots of it. Maybe.
How Zero Waste Consultants can Help
ZeroWaste Consultants understands this economic disconnect wedged between your best intentions and your company’s bottom line. We can analyze your business from numerous angles and create a glide path towards not only environmental responsibility but financial success in the process.
Can we discuss the possibilities with your company’s sustainability manager and if you do not have some one appointed in that role, your financial officer? Contact us when you are prepared to succeed at a zero waste program – no matter where you are. You are one click away from beginning that journey.