All living things produce waste.
Within a system in equilibrium, the waste from one process provides food, or fuel, for another. Nature is the ultimate recycler.
Waste = food.
This is the simple logic that underpins the philosophy of Zero Waste.
Through the lens of Zero Waste, the issue of waste isn’t so much that people produce it at all, but that we produce so darn much of it, and in such a manner that it resists reabsorption into the natural cycle.
So while humankind has forever thrown things away, it’s only recently that this detritus has become synonymous with trash, garbage, or landfill.
Garbage is a design problem.
When we can’t recover waste materials, and they become garbage – that is, they become un-useful for anything else – it’s because of bad design.
We either designed a product with the expectation it would end up in landfill (and we were okay with that) or we simply didn’t consider its end of life at all.
Garbage often happens when products are:
- made with hazardous materials.
- made of more materials than necessary.
- made of materials that are not easily recycled.
- made of a combination of materials that are difficult to separate.
- difficult to repair.
- designed for single use.
There are ways to tackle these issues:
- design with the end of life waste product in mind.
- use materials that generate useful waste and eliminate the rest.
- find ways to use the waste that already exists within the system.
- design products for long term use or reuse.
- use the least amount of resources possible.
Truly sophisticated design will bring us closer to the natural cycle from which we’ve become disconnected. ‘Send to landfill’ isn’t a plan anymore.