Last week, I wrote about my visit to a waste-to-energy facility and how while it appears to be a good solution, waste-to-energy actually carries with it more problems than it solves.
Further reading of The Zero Waste Solution provided more alternative solutions to our ever growing waste production. Incinerators are not the answer. Zero-waste to landfill is different from zero-waste. In the book, the author goes on to cite many cities and countries already doing their part to reduce the amount of garbage that it is sent to the landfill. I was not aware that cities like San Francisco are at the cutting edge of reducing waste. I recommend picking up this book to see how other places are doing their part despite many challenges. There isn't necessarily a right way to do it, but from the many examples given, here are the ideal steps to ensure zero waste initiatives are successful.
- Education is important. People need to be educated and reminded of the benefits of recycling, how to do it properly and where to go if they help.
- A strong process is key. Most of the towns that implemented zero waste battled infrastructure challenges, government policies and some resistance. A strong process is key in ensuring that nothing is missed and all aspects of reducing waste is met.
- A feedback loop is essential. Waste changes over time. A built-in feedback loop allows flexibility to make and implement those changes.
- Transparency is necessary. Out of sight, out of a mind is sometimes a detriment to getting people to understand why good waste management is important. Many folks do not know where their waste is being trucked to. For some, it’s only a few miles from their hometowns.
- A conversation about money is also very helpful. Waste is a business. Towns spend a lot of money contracting with management companies to pick up and process waste. This can be reflected in taxes and other costs. Zero waste can help reduce expenses.
- Community involvement is crucial. The town must be actively involved in shaping their zero waste solution. It’s important that concerns are addressed to ensure that a process works for majority of the people.
- Businesses need to be involved. Zero waste is everyone’s responsibility. By involving, supporting and encouraging small businesses and large corporations to start thinking about their waste, you can create an impetus for change.
- Government policies can be changed. Lobbying for plastic bag bans, littering fines, pollution fines, etc. is possible and can be a great step towards reducing waste.
- Zero waste social enterprise is possible. Zero waste provides an opportunity to not only generate income and profit, but also a way to get social involvement happen.
- Creativity is important in tackling waste. The default solution may not always be the answer. Look for alternative packaging, alternative pick-up options and alternative ways to do things.
Here are the 10 steps to Zero Waste from the book. For me in particular, I’ve really only focused on my personal waste, but this book brought zero waste in a larger context. I’ve learned so much and encourage you to pick up this book. This along with Zero Waste Home are my top two recommendations for books on zero waste. The Zero Waste Solution is more at a macro sense, while the Zero Waste Home is on the micro (personal level).
- Source separation
- Door-to-door collection systems
- Reuse, repair and deconstruction
- Waste reduction initiatives
- Economic incentives
- Residual separation and research facilities
- Better industrial design
- Interim landfills
To supplement this book, I also recommend the movie "Trashed" with Jeremy Irons. I found it on YouTube with Portuguese subtitles. As of March 13, it's still available on YouTube.