What it means to be ‘zero waste’
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.