In the Circular Economy, Zero Waste Lies Are Future

In the Circular Economy, Zero Waste Lies Are Future ...

Zero waste is on the rise, and although many individuals still associate the movement with the mason jar challenge popularized by Instagram influencers and social media mavens, there is a lot more behind it. It is thus underpinned by a complete transformative process that transforms our entire take, make, and trash economy.

Many people understand this shift as the circular economy and participating in the zero-waste movement involves adopting many circular concepts. Nevertheless, both concepts are in a wide variety of ways, and here, we examine the two possibilities and why the future of the zero-waste movement is in more use.

The application of zero waste in the circular economy concepts

Both the zero-waste movement and the circular economy have agreed that, to alleviate the effects of waste, it must be developed out of our existing systems (or loop), while also protecting valuable resources and ensuring that harmful elements are kept out of the environment.

This implies focussed on a globally agreed stalemate that extends on the already widely used three Rs. Currently, the Zero Waste International Alliance defines this hierarchy in the following ways:

  • Rethink/Redesignproducts and materials to create less waste
  • Reduceconsumption of new products and materials
  • Reuseproducts and materials before disposing of them
  • Recycle/Compostproducts and materials and avoid landfilling
  • Recovermaterials from products that cannot be recycled
  • Manage residualsusing best possible approach from above
  • Unacceptableincineration and landfilling of products and materials

On the other hand, the circular economy takes a more systematic approach to the way we consume, as well as constructing closed-loop systems that encourage the circularity of resources to reduce waste and pollution, keep goods and materials in use for the entire lifetime, and restore natural systems.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has a definition of it:

Obviously, there is plenty of disagreement between the two concepts, and the zero-waste hierarchy is a common approach to waste management. Besides, both concepts look towards the concept of cradle-to-grave, rather than simply dealing with waste at the end point and focussing on waste generation at the sourcei.e., the point of manufacture.

However, as circular economy concepts indicate that the zero-waste movement has evolved by a few decades, it is appropriate to suggest that the zero-waste movement is a part of circular thinking, particularly aimed at individuals and businesses who want to reduce waste. While the circular economy encompasses our entire existing system of consumption.

Circular economies can reshape zero waste.

These zero-waste movements are likely to be the mainstream''s greatest detractor. With increased consumer demand for more eco-friendly products, businesses demonstrate an increased interest to meet this demand. Invariably, these products are more eco-friendly than others, and we cannot, therefore, experience a better understanding of those products.

If we are to achieve zero waste, the recent proliferation of zero-waste products has the potential to create greenwashing issues, particularly when components are not intended to increase the impact of future fluctuations. Rather, labeling a product as zero-waste to appeal to businesses and consumers is unquenchable, and whether through good intentions or simply as a singular selling point, integrating a more rigid circular approach must become the main objective.

Today, palm oil plantations used to construct this green product are a major cause of deforestation. The goal to reduce fossil fuels appears to be a good idea on the surface, but it is now a significant ecological issue that a truly circular approach may have been able to avoid.

Out of issues that fail to take into account future outcomes, the zero-waste movement is still far too dependent on disposable mindsets. This means that too many applications are created that do not address the single-use issue, placing unnecessary demands on waste management infrastructure.

Bamboo toothbrushes do a great job of reducing billion or so plastic toothbrushes that are left to landfill each year in the United States alone, reducing a huge waste issue with a simple change of materials. However, a decade or so and a few billion bamboo toothbrushes is barely a better scenario, given that a large portion will still live in landfill where they will help to mitigate methane emissions, even if recycling infrastructure is improved.

True circular thinking may improve these goods. Similarly, manufacturing separated bodies and interchangeable heads might reduce the amount of waste generated significantly. Even better, a return to naturally grown chewing sticks or other products that require less manufacturing inputs while also focusing on natural renewable resources.

The same is possible for paper-based water bottles to replace plastic or compostable packaging for goods that, in fact, might equally be distributed in without packaging entirely. The zero-waste movement might further propel the circular economy by promoting reusable water bottles and easily accessible water dispensers, or by, for example, by equipping supermarkets with bulk dispensers that consumers may use to refill their own containers more and more.

The future of zero waste

At this point, it''s worth acknowledging the many benefits that the zero-waste movement has achieved. It has acquired the concept of proper waste management and the need to reduce waste at all levels to the mainstream. It has supported growth in more sustainable products and provided consumers with more choice.

The zero-waste movement is still going strong on a higher level of thought based on circular economy concepts. In fact, it has the potential to be the front-facing movement that drives a truly stable economy where circularity is the foundation.

Finally, with increased adoption of circular concepts, the zero-waste movement may dispel its critics who deem it a simple form of greenwashing, creating a movement that non only promotes sustainable products and habits, but also continues to develop its thinking about closed-loop systems, which are beneficial to everyone.

About the author:

Shannon Bergstrom is a LEED Green Associate and TRUE Waste Advisor. She currently works atRTS, a technology-driven waste and recycling management organization, as a sustainability operations manager. Shannon works with clients across industries on sustainable waste practices.

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