Zero waste is the big environmental buzzword. In different parts of the world, communities are pulling together to try to achieve environmental nirvana – making no impact on the environment in terms of waste. So, is it really possible to do this? And is it something that home users can achieve? Let’s look first at a couple of examples of zero waste in action.
Zero Waste in Japan
A village in Japan no longer needs the city’s refuse collection services after almost achieving zero waste. If you live in Kamikatsu, then you will have to sort your household waste into one of 36 containers. Your house has a composter for all food waste, and everything is recycled in a nearby recycling plant. There is no waste. Of course, this means a lot of time spent sorting. Kamikatsu didn’t set out to become a zero waste village, but the closing of their incinerators in 2003 started the recycling process which has continued to this day. There are still some issues to be sorted out though. All items have to be washed and cleaned before recycling, and the plan is to collect and reuse the water used in this process and to use chemical-free cleaning agents. Still, it’s a significant project which gives hope that zero waste is achievable.
Zero Waste in the UK
A similar project in the UK is just at the starting point. In Monmouthshire, the focus is on community education and incentives. The Monmouthshire Environmental Partnership Board is setting the standard and showing villages in the area how it can work. To do this, it’s using the power of YouTube to screen videos on the ease of the recycling process. And it is easy, compared with the Japanese example, as there is far less sorting to do.
Zero Waste at Home
With these two examples, as well as many others targeting the same goal, it seems obvious that the zero waste efforts will have to start in our own homes. Some of the steps we can take – and many already are taking – include:
- buying and using a composter for all household waste, then using that to fertilize plants and crops
- recycling everything – first by using the bins provided by the council but also by checking out private recycling enterprises
- reusing what can’t be easily recycled – for example using water bottles in art projects
- refusing to take home any unnecessary packaging and using recyclable shopping bags.
Many of us are already doing these things. The trick is to do them consistently and set the example for everyone we meet. Only then are we likely to achieve zero waste at home and in our local community in the future.