Zero waste as a legitimate and desirable future for all
About zero waste
Zero waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health” – Definition of Zero Waste as adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance
Waste is just a symptom of a much deeper malaise that affects us humans. Zero waste is a philosophy aiming to unroot the causes of wastage altogether.
Our planet has always followed zero waste principles. For thousands of years, up until the industrial era, waste was not a developed concept because most discarded material from civilisations were used as inputs for other processes, retaining their value in a circular way, just like nature does. But what nature has done through evolution, humankind needs to do by design today .
We have now come to realise that we need to rethink the way we produce and consume in order to create these ecosystemic relations, which preserve the value and energy embedded in resources whilst enabling civilisation to flourish and prosper. Zero waste is not only about decoupling economic activity from environmental destruction – it is, above all, about building resilience and natural capital for future generations.
In the 20th century, the purpose of waste management was to minimise the immediate environmental damage through waste collection and its disposal in the least environmentally harmful way possible. Zero waste brings us into the 21st century by shifting the focus away from waste management and into proper management of our Earth’s valuable resources.
A zero waste Europe is no longer seen as a visionary project to escape from a dystopian future. Instead, today the concept has sunk in: the question is no longer “if”, but rather “how” and “when” policy makers and influencers will accept it as a legitimate and desirable goal for our society.