What is zero waste?

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use." –Zero Waste International Alliance

...so what does that mean?

Zero Waste (on the individual level) essentially means reducing household waste as much as possible. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, including:

  • purchasing only foods without packaging (or choosing foods with recyclable or compostable packaging) 

  • being a conscious consumer (buying only when necessary)

  • purchasing second-hand clothing

  • purchasing products with a long usable life

  • buying reusables and avoiding single-use products

  • making your own natural beauty products

  • avoiding plastic

  • carrying your own utensils, coffee cup, take-out container, napkin, tissue, etc.

The 5 Rs of zero waste
  1. REFUSE what you do not need.

  2. REDUCE what you do need.

  3. REUSE by giving products a new life.

  4. RECYCLE what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.

  5. ROT (compost) the rest.

what about industry?

Zero Waste is a term that originated in industry to refer to a large-scale waste management strategy. In an industrial-scale zero waste system, nothing goes to waste. All temporary waste products can be used again for something else and products are designed to last rather to be thrown away.

An industrial zero waste system:

  1. minimizes the issue of waste management,

  2. reduces material costs, 

  3. and could provide new opportunities for people to work in reuse and remanufacturing jobs. 

In recent years, more and more companies have started to manufacture products and their associated packaging out of compostable or recyclable materials.

© 2018 by Summer Robinson

For more information on zero waste or to get involved with Solid Green Student Club at Clemson University, please contact Summer Robinson at (864) 760-2808 or slr2@g.clemson.edu.

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