Innovation or Trend? A Critical Look at Zero-Waste
What may seem like a very simple idea has quickly spread into a worldwide movement. The ‘zero-waste’ trend has seen growing popularity in recent years, as people try to ditch “the stuff” and simplify their lives. This trend, while simple, is revolutionary in this day and age.
The innovative idea of ‘zero-waste’ rejects the ideologies of capitalism at its core by denouncing over-consumption and encouraging people to reduce their environmental footprint through empowered individual choices (Zero Waste International Alliance).
On the other hand, the ‘zero-waste’ movement has created an entire industry of companies creating and selling more dispensable products designed specifically for this newly-popular lifestyle. These products include bamboo utensils and cloth grocery bags - items that, while useful, are not necessary in attempting to reduce one’s own waste. Often times, Amazon kits marketed as convenience tools towards zero-waste produce wasteful packaging that needs to be disposed of. It is still important to note that progress is being made, such as plastic industries beginning to reduce the impact of their products by creating plastic that can be recycled or reused (Chung).
This concept of ‘zero-waste’ allows individuals to help the Earth, but it also alienates the poor from this trend by perpetuating the idea of zero-waste through inaccessible items. Inexpensive on-the-go meals often come encased in wasteful packaging. The ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle requires time and extra thinking, two luxuries that the poor often live without.
In reality, the most accessible way to live a ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle is to use products that one already has, like metal utensils and reusable containers. These help to reduce the waste of packaging for portable foods, as does utilizing local compost programs to reduce food waste. Companies like Waste Control Services, based out of Vancouver, allows people to dispose of goods to be recycled that otherwise would end up in a landfill. They have specific programs, such as using food packaging to create energy, or recycling grain from breweries and bakeries (Waste Control Services). Initiatives like this allow people to reduce the waste that they create.
While ‘zero-waste’ is a great goal, it is also a very ambitious one. Recycling and composting allow people to conveniently reduce their environmental impact, while still consuming products as per usual. Reflecting on what one consumes can allow us to realize that some products we buy may be unnecessary.
Chung, Emily. “Plastic Industry, Environmentalists Share Similar Zero Waste Goals for 2030
CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 5 June 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/technology/plastic-recycling-policies-1.4688221.
“Zero Waste Innovations.” Waste Control Services, wastecontrolservices.com/solutions/business-recycling-waste/zero-waste-innovations/.
“ZW Definition.” Zero Waste International Alliance, zwia.org/standards/zw-definition/.