The allure of zero waste is especially prevalent today. But how feasible is it?
It seems reasonable to say that we have a problem with plastic.
With the advent of the zero waste movement, I am actually shocked at the amount of packaging - plastic or otherwise - I use on a daily basis. And this is a major concern because:
a. It's either disposed in landfills without proper waste segregation
b. Or burnt through high temperature incinerator that produces huge amount of toxic fumes
Either way this problem isn't getting solved anytime soon.
The 15 thousand tonnes of waste we produce is a problem that I never knew what to do about until I stumbled on the term “zero waste,” a new lifestyle trend that advocates for living without consuming any single-use plastics or trash at all.
According to Zero Waste World:
“As pollution overwhelms many of our cities and natural resources become scarce. We cannot continue to throw our rubbish “away.” Simply put, “away” does not exist. When we bury our waste, the landfills that we create hurt communities; they generate toxic leachates and emit methane gas which contributes to climate change. Aiming for zero waste is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies available for combating climate change”.
I first learned about Zero Waste when I saw a video on Facebook of a lady who condensed all her trash - over a year - into one small tin can. And honestly, the entire process seems cumbersome to me.
Going zero waste means I swap every item of my everyday use with something that is ecologically sustainable and is biodegradable. I can no longer consume snacks which come wrapped in plastic or paper packaging. To re-iterate, this would include chips, cookies, ice creams and the like which we consume without much thought about their disposal.
It would also mean that I shift to consuming only locally produced fruits & vegetables which do not come wrapped in plastic packaging. This shift is easier since the "organic" movement has gained traction and finding fruits and vegetables from local farms which get delivered to your doorstop - without any packaging - is easier.
Going Zero Waste also means I stop consuming hygiene products such as soaps and shampoos that come in plastic packaging. This seems the most daunting to me. How can I make a switch when I am so used to the products I use? In a way though, I am spoiled, as we all are. So much of what we buy comes in some form of packaging, and the zero waste movement is undeniably a response to this modern fact of life. I don’t go a day without consuming something and what comes along with consumption is its nasty byproduct: single use packaging. So the question is: how then do I stay sane and live my life, avoiding a pesky product I see everywhere I look?
The end goal then is not to be completely Zero Waste, but rather "Rethink" my habits and reduce where I can. Zero Waste means progress, not perfection. As in the blog Litterless, " Zero waste is an attempt to reduce the amount of trash and recycling we make through composting, choosing reusable products over single-use disposables, choosing to buy fewer packaged products, and rethinking our approach to what we buy and use."
This seems doable. I can definitely forgo plastic in some areas.
It can be difficult as I am set in my ways and too apprehensive to try new products. I want to be able to be the kind of person that feels comfortable in wearing secondhand garments that get exchanged in these Zero Waste meets. And sometimes cynically I wonder if all this is a scam, when I see women flaunt the clothes they got at these events. I am not opposed to the trend. Maybe if social media acknowledged its difficulties there would be more people embracing it.
Also, let's not forget the major reason for resistance - laziness. I have a full-time job which keeps me on my toes the whole day, which is exhausting in itself. When I come home, I'd rather not think about our planet dying or other such intrusive thoughts. And the narrative of the Zero Waste lifestyle has seen more and more women embracing the trend while men feel it's too feminine to care about the planet. That is another problem in itself.
It is perhaps one of the most unpopular of opinions, that change will come with a cost to ourselves but it is one I wish we would all start to embrace. As of right now, I am not zero waste but I am making zero waste changes, trying to lessen my environmental impact. And I have begun to feel the pangs of sacrifice. And when it hurts, I reach out to others doing the same to find some joy in it all.
And honestly change won't come with just me altering some practices in my life. If I wait for everyone to become magically selfless and anti-consumerist, the results will be disastrous. In the end, with gender and privilege and ability wrapped up in all of this, the practicality and effectiveness of a zero waste lifestyle can be difficult to decipher but I think working toward a sustainable future will always be a hard battle, full of a thousand nuances. It’s confusing — but I suppose working toward any worthwhile goal always will be.