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In today’s society, we rarely think about the consequences of purchasing products with extra packaging or with a short life cycle. Most of us have never seen a landfill, so once we throw something in the trash it’s out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, the ones who have to live close to those landfills are often poor and disenfranchised communities while the ones who produce the most waste are those people privileged enough to be able to easily dispose of items they no longer want or need. Waste that is not sent to landfills is burned in incinerators with toxins being released into the air during the process.
With the growing world population, it’s important to reduce waste significantly in order to use fewer resources in managing it. Recycling is just one step in the right direction. The zero waste approach goes further than that, and instead of focusing on how to manage waste attempts to stop creating waste. The name is, of course, misleading, as it is impossible for anyone to produce no waste at all, but sometimes catchy phrases like that are needed to get people interested.
It’s not surprising that most waste is created by big industries, such as the food industry. When items are packaged several times this creates nothing but waste. In many cases, we purchase more plastic wrapping than actual food, and one can wonder if that is done on purpose.
The fast fashion industry is responsible for producing clothing items that cannot be worn longer than a few months and then need to be discarded. Due to the low level of quality, they cannot be repaired and will again just end up in landfills. Check out my posts on ethical fashion and minimalism to find out why you should change your shopping habits.
Zero waste focuses on producing and purchasing fewer disposable items and instead turning towards those that can be reused.
Due to the impact of the large industries, most of the responsibilities in zero waste fall on them and not individuals, but there are things that concerned citizens can do to help. Not everything will work for everyone and everywhere, but each of us can focus on at least one of the following:
Plastic is extremely cheap and quite long-lasting, which is why it is being used in almost everything these days. Unfortunately, this also means it does not simply decompose once you trash it. Many plastic items will take several hundred years to completely decay. Every piece of plastic that you trash will be around long after you are gone. This is one of the main things all of us can watch out for.
Try to avoid using plastic, for example by purchasing reusable glass bottles instead of buying water in plastic bottles.
Another option is to take glass jars with you when you go grocery shopping and ask to have them filled with the exact amount of product you want to purchase.
Transport your groceries in canvas bags instead of plastic bags, and you will make a small but necessary difference.
Shopping in bulk
As mentioned above, extra packaging just creates waste. Shopping in bulk eliminates some of that waste by reducing the times that one has to go shopping.
There are certain products you don’t need to purchase and can simply create yourself, especially beauty products such as exfoliators or body lotion. Every time you make something yourself you save the packaging.
Some countries are really advanced when it comes to composting. It’s an easy and effective way to deal with biodegradable waste.
I don’t believe that everyone has to do all of those things. Nobody is perfect, and I believe that we are all allowed to keep certain luxuries in our lives, such as going on vacation by plane. If you put a lot of effort into reducing pollution and waste in your everyday life that’s already a huge step, so don’t be discouraged if you cannot do everything or if people criticize you for trying to be more conscious of your habits but then doing things that are not eco-friendly. We all have to start somewhere, and there is no need to listen to people who are not making any effort themselves.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.