Many people may hear the term “Zero Waste” and think of it as getting to zero waste—literally. But Zero Waste is much more complex than that. It’s a concept that goes far beyond just recycling or even individual business’ actions. Rather, it’s a web of actions, taken by all, that has the power to impact everything from climate change, to the health of our ecosystem and how we manufacture and consume products.
What is Zero Waste?
Let’s take a step back. To understand Zero Waste, consider the way things are done now when it comes to stuff. Yes, we have a lot of stuff, but the way we make it, consume it, and then get rid of it, well, it’s quite a linear process. In fact, a flow chart of the process might show a trail, starting from natural resources all the way to the landfill.
Here’s what happens: First, we source the resources we need to make stuff; we turn to natural resources like petroleum, forests, metals. Then we make a product. The actual process to create the product is typically riddled with toxic waste, pollution, scraps, you name it. Then, the products get distributed and sold. This means they are often shipped across the U.S., if not around the world, using additional resources for shipping materials, and energy to get the product from one place to another. Once a product is used, it may get recycled or tossed into the trash. If it goes the trash route, it’s either burned via an incinerator or placed into a landfill. When this happens, these resources are gone; destroyed. And then the process starts all over again.
As you can see “waste” can apply to so much more than what’s sitting in your garbage bin! And this linear process is not just broken—it’s far from sustainable.
Why a Zero Waste system is more critical than ever.
When we keep tapping into natural resources (as if they’ll be there forever) and continuing along this broken, linear cycle, we’re not changing our systems to accommodate for our planet’s massive population growth. We’re now at more than 7 billion people on this planet, with the population doubling in just the last 40 years. That’s an incredible strain on the Earth’s natural, limited resources.
We’re creating far too much waste, and an explosion of greenhouse gas emissions along with it. This in turn will impact future generations. This impacts each and every one of us, regardless of where you live or what your socioeconomic status is. You can’t hide from it.
So, what’s the answer?
Transitioning to a Zero Waste System is certainly not an overnight process. It requires a fundamental mindset shift in how we create and consume and dispose of products. But what it does is reinvent our entire approach. The idea is to prevent waste and pollution in the first place, then use any discarded scraps or waste to create new products, to reuse when we can and so on. At the core of Zero Waste is clean, streamlined manufacturing processes.
Zero Waste and Phoenix
Here in Phoenix, more than one million tons of solid waste hits the city’s landfill every year. Phoenix has committed to a Zero Waste transition by 2050, with the goal of reducing waste by 40% by 2020. To achieve this, there’s been a heightened focus on smart recycling programs, and encouraging businesses to increase their recyclable products by changing their packaging or repurposing their packaging or products.
Of course, there’s a cost associated with shifting your business processes and changing the way you manage waste. That’s where Recycle1 comes in: businesses count on us evaluate their waste, help them make money on scraps, and navigate the entire process. Helping businesses recycle is what we do. Contact us today to see how we can help you change the way you think about your waste and recycle program.