How you can join the move towards zero waste

Corporate companies, the government and ordinary South Africans will need to work together in their efforts to reduce waste and create a sustainable future for all.

This is a sentiment shared by many in the environmental and sustainable living space, and one that is gaining momentum through waste partnerships between communities, local authorities and big business.

Recently Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy, released the National Waste Management Strategy 2020, in an effort to cut back on waste.

“In line with the outcome-based planning approach of government, the strategy is premised on three outcomes which will see a future South Africa with zero waste in landfills; cleaner communities, well managed and financially stable waste services, and a culture of zero tolerance of pollution, litter and illegal dumping.

“These outcomes will be achieved through three supporting pillars, namely Waste Minimisation; Effective and Sustainable Waste Services; Compliance, Enforcement and Awareness.” she said.

But what is zero waste, and can humanity actually achieve it?

Zero waste is the conservation of all resources through responsible production, consumption, reuse and recycling of products, packaging and materials that does not involve burning or dumping on land or water that threatens the environment or the health of people.

It has been set as a goal to strive for, but with so much waste finding its way into landfills, it is unlikely to be attained any time soon, that is why it becomes even more important for people to change their habits to reduce the waste they produce individually.

Mashable makes the point that a zero waste lifestyle involves adopting an approach to living which is more thoughtful and minimalistic.

It quotes Bea Johnson, US blogger and author of Zero Waste Home: “Zero waste aims at eliminating as much trash from the household as possible.

“What it ultimately does is translate into a simple, richer life based on experience instead of things.”

Johnson and her family got to reducing their annual waste output to just a jar of junk, but you don’t have to go to such extremes to make an impact, since every small adjustment you make in your consumption of goods and services will have an effect.

To get started Johnson recommends taking on the “5 Rs”: “Refuse what you do not need. Reduce what you do need. Reuse what you consume. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. And rot (compost) the rest..”

There are dozens of pointers to help you along the way,

But here are 10 tips towards being zero waste

1. Don’t leave home without a full reusable water bottle.

2. Move from tissues to handkerchiefs.

3. Refuse promotional items like cheap pens that break.

4. Donate things you don’t use to charity or the second-hand market.

5. Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one.

6. Wash clothes when they are actually dirty, instead of after only one wear.

7. Buy food with minimal or no packaging.

8. Get into the habit of taking reusable bags with you when you shopping.

9. Start a compost heap with vegetable peels and scraps.

10. Consider rainwater harvesting or installing a grey water system.

Going zero waste reassures new-comers to the zero waste movement that there is no one correct way to do something to lower your impact, but rather a multitude of ways, some good, some okay, and some not good at all. It suggests that being conscious of what you consume is a good starting point, right down to saying no to plastic straws.