What is Zero Waste? Learn to minimize your waste!

We live in a critical time for Earth . With the busy life we ​​lead, we are not aware of the environmental impact of the habits we have and of everything we buy, even without needing it. Both packaged food, as well as the things that we accumulate in our warehouse are generating an impact on the planet.In July, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned us that we have already exhausted all available resources for this year . And we are devouring everything! Therefore, today more than ever we must raise awareness and take action on our consumption habits. The movement Zero Waste (Zero Waste) is a great alternative to start here and now. Let’s go!

Zero Waste, more than just a trend

Zero Waste or Zero Residue is a global movement that promotes the conservation and optimization of the resources available on the planet. The Zero Waste boosts consumption and responsible production of goods, materials and packaging, to reduce the volume of waste we produce pollutants daily. 

In other words, the Zero Waste philosophy aims to make us aware of the amount of garbage we generate ; from our purchasing decisions, to the way we dispose of what we no longer use. The Zero Waste initiative encourages us to remove from our lives products with polluting agents that cause great waste due to their short useful life.

The movement stems from the alarming environmental situation of the planet and the imperative need to reduce our carbon footprint . For this reason, today more than ever we must follow sustainable initiatives like this one, to leave a habitable planet for future generations .

Zero Waste in the world

The Zero Waste is a movement that not only focuses on consumer habits; it also cares about waste management . For this reason, there are international organizations, such as the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) , the World Resources Institute or the Zero Waste Europe . These entities promote policies so that companies and cities around the world manage their waste responsibly. In addition, they promote programs for the correct incineration of waste in landfills.

They also focus on educating and training society, public and private organizations, on the economic and environmental benefits of reducing and properly managing garbage.

In Ecuador, the Zero Waste movement is increasingly welcomed thanks to countless stores that promote the use of natural and biodegradable products, as well as the purchase in bulk and the reuse of plastic packaging. In addition, according to data from the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries, in the country we already have around 11 collection centers and eight recycling companies , all certified by this government institution. 

The 5 R’s of Zero Waste

The Zero Waste trend is based on 5 principles , which are fundamental pillars to reduce our waste production as much as possible. Let’s analyze each one of them!

1. Reject

According to the United Nations, up to 5 billion plastic bags are used each year, passing through landfills and ending up in the sea. Therefore, the first step is to get off the radar the things that you do not need or that have a very short useful life ; such as products with unnecessary packaging. 

Saying no has never been so popular because rejecting is the first step to creating less waste . It is taking away from things the opportunity to become garbage, from the moment you are doing your shopping. 

2. Reduce

Once you have said goodbye to what pollutes the most , it is time to reduce the use of other products that impact the environment as much as possible and replace them with more ecological options. We know that even these options can generate polluting waste, so what you should do is extend its useful life as long as possible.

UN statistics show us that around 1 million plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute . You can do your bit to reduce this figure or so that those bottles do not end up directly in the landfill. And for that reason, the following principles that we explain here are fundamental.

3. Reuse

The planned obsolescence tells us when something has reached the end of its useful life. A bottle stops serving when you finish your drink, your phone expires when a new model comes out or those pants that you stop liking because a different fashion trend appeared. 

Despite these impositions, many things have a longer useful life than you think and that is why, before recycling it is essential that you start reusing. Find at home what you can give a new use, for example cans and glass or plastic containers, wood, bags, everything you can and join the cycle of the  circular economy .

4. Recycle

It is common to confuse recycling with reuse . It is difficult for the end users or consumers of a product to recycle , since this implies transforming the material, such as some types of plastics, into raw material to create something new. So usually it is the companies that have the operational capacity to do it. 

In case you cannot reject, reduce and reuse something, it is better to send it for recycling, but keep in mind that this is not possible with all materials or as many times as desired . To give you an idea, PET plastics can be recycled between three and five times depending on the color. The paper can enter a new process about six times. Then all these materials become garbage. Only glass and metal are 100% recyclable and can be processed as many times as necessary. 

As you can see, recycling is not the solution to environmental problems , but it dampens in a certain way, and for a time, the impact that our consumption can have. For example, every time 1 ton of paper is recycled, around 17 trees are saved. But what is in your hands is to create a collection center at home in which you separate your waste into these categories:

  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Paper and paperboard

Then, you can deliver them to the recyclers and they will be in charge of continuing with the corresponding process.

5. Reintegrate

For there to be recycling it is important that the materials are not contaminated with organic waste. That is why incorporating this waste into the earth also contributes to other types of waste that can be recycled.

When you reintegrate organic waste through compost , you contribute to improving the quality of the soil. According to the World Bank, only about 5.5% of organic waste is composted worldwide, when kitchen waste can mean richer and healthier land. So now is the time to give back to the planet all that it has given you. 

5 reasons to start reducing your waste

Joining the Zero Waste movement has many benefits that replicate a positive impact on different aspects of your life and that of others:

  1. You help the planet: your environmental impact and carbon footprint will be considerably reduced .
  2. You improve your health: because you are switching from packaged and processed products to more organic alternatives and homemade meals.
  3. You save money:If you consume only what you need, you will give your pocket a good rest . 
  4. You support local businesses: If you buy at the corner store or greengrocer, you are helping to strengthen the small businesses in your neighborhood .
  5. You contribute to your legacy: you are doing your bit so that your children and grandchildren have a cleaner and more sustainable planet .