What it means to be ‘zero waste’

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - HAN­NAH BARTLETT

Re­duce, re­use, re­cy­cle: that’s the essence of a ‘‘zero waste’’ phi­los­o­phy that aims to stop things end­ing up ‘‘in a hole in the ground’’.

Nel­son En­vi­ron­ment Cen­tre’s Karen Driver says the idea is to cre­ate a ‘‘cir­cu­lar econ­omy’’ for prod­ucts and waste. Rather than some­thing be­ing made, used, and dumped in land­fill at the end of its use­ful life, it’s about re­pur­pos­ing it so parts are reused, not thrown out.

‘‘To achieve zero waste prop­erly you need ev­ery­one in the chain think­ing about it, but it re­ally comes down to the de­sign of prod­ucts.’’

Man­u­fac­tur­ers and prod­uct de­sign­ers need to have a prod­uct’s end-of-life in mind when they make it, giv­ing thought to how it might be reused, fixed, or re­cy­cled when they’re choos­ing ma­te­ri­als. But ev­ery­day con­sumers have their part to play too.

‘‘If you’re need­ing to buy some­thing, just think about the life­time costs of it,’’ Driver says.

She sug­gests buy­ing things that can be re­paired - wood­en­han­dled gar­den tools in­stead of plas­tic, for ex­am­ple - and spend­ing a bit more on items like clothes, choos­ing qual­ity gar­ments that will last longer, rather than cheap items that need re­plac­ing ev­ery year.

Buy­ing un­pack­aged fruits and veg­eta­bles is a big one too. It not only cuts down on plas­tic from pack­ag­ing and bags, but it can be cheaper for the con­sumer, as loose items of­ten have lower perk­ilo­gram cost than pack­aged goods. She says buy­ing loose items means you’re more likely to only buy what you need.

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