What is zero waste – really? It targets the maximum amount of recycling while reducing waste to the minimum. It looks at reducing consumption and makes sure that products are reused, repaired or sent for recycling back to either nature or to the marketplace for turning into another item.

Zero waste plans should completely redesign the industrial arrangement where items used to pass one way, but really need to move in a circular structure – nature has been doing it this way successfully for centuries. The world needs to change the current system where business systems are poorly designed, using far too many resources without making sufficient numbers of people productive.

Government action

Governments say a lot about zero waste and the excess produced around the world, but in reality, what do they really do to stop the ever increasing waste of energy and produce? Is it left to the citizens of each country to take action?

The answer is that governments talk about reducing waste, but don’t really have action plans to halt the disease of careless waste. Input zero waste into an internet search engine and you will find thousands of pages covering the subject, but few government plans to eradicate the condition.

Who is doing what?

Many towns and villages around the world have taken up the task of trying to create zero waste projects, but while some are led by local authorities, they are not government controlled.

In Monmouthshire (Wales) the village of St Arvans was an early adopter of zero waste concepts. The local government wanted to start an initiative and chose St Arvans because the villagers (just 273 houses) had shown an 85% interest in using the previous system of removing some recyclable items.

Unfortunately, while good intentions worked well for a period, the system is no longer active because of enthusiasm failing after a time, together with the local authority not having the funds to maintain a zero waste policy.

In Kamikatsu, Japan, they have been on a zero waste mission for 17 years. They recycle 36 different types of product. They have cancelled the local collection of waste by local government. Volunteers help older people by taking their recyclable goods to the waste area. This establishes a great waste project, but also binds the community. Almost everyone takes part.

The difference in this village is that action has developed into a way of life. The younger people will not know any different and will naturally ensure they adopt the four mainstays of zero waste action:

· Refuse – refuse to buy products that include items that are not recyclable or will not degrade properly.

· Reduce – reduce the goods we buy, reduce the goods we package our products in, reduce waste.

· Reuse – checking labels on goods to see what can be reused.

· Recycle – aim to recycle everything you can’t reuse.

What next?

Government can’t be expected to do everything for its people, even though many believe that zero waste projects will only be successful if education and management are shared across the globe.

Job creation needs to address the problems being created by the overuse of fossil fuels and the deliberate waste from the packaging industries. Local communities need to be managed efficiently taking into account all aspects of zero waste policies. Helping people will always be more successful than beating them with fines for non-conforming actions.

If the local community operates with clear messages of what is and what isn’t acceptable, then good jobs can be sustained and all can provide a level of self-sufficiency.

The aim of a zero waste project needs to be targeted at plans to eliminate waste and not how to manage waste, although it’s obvious that the two will go hand in hand for a period during the changeover.

What can the government do?

There are almost no government laws or infrastructure in place to supervise maximizing recycling while managing minimizing waste, although some laws have been adopted to try to lean towards a green code. This doesn’t protect the environment or address public health issues. This is probably because government won’t win votes at elections purely based upon a green zero waste campaign.

The sooner governments incorporate real plans, the sooner the world can move towards zero waste. Any movement in the right direction has to be positive.

There’s more to sustainability than solar panels and organic home furnishings. Freelancer Helen Thomas spends her free time making sure that the dent she and her business leaves on the planet is as small as possible.

By Izzy | Professional Writer & Researcher