Chapter 1: What is zero waste?

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

is a hot topic that everyone talks about these days, on newspapers, TV, social media,...Waste is what we generate and manage on an everyday basis. However, it is impossible to fix the waste challenge by simply cleaning the mess or even by better waste management. What the world needs is a new approach that goes deep down to the root of the problem, redesign the relationship between human and resources, and redesign our production and consumption process, being more responsible in every step. And that new approach is Zero waste.


Source: unsplash

According to Zero Waste International Alliance, zero waste means "The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”


Without doubt, zero waste is not simply just a destination, it is a journey and it is open to everyone. Not only governments and giant corporates have to take action, but also small restaurants, hotels, events and each individual is required to take part in adopting the zero waste philosophy.


Another interesting and more adaptable concept is Near-Zero Waste, in which waste is and recycling is maximised.


Zero Waste Hierachy


Zero Waste Europe created a new waste hierarchy to encourage people to change their mindset of how waste should be viewed in our society.


Circular economy pyramid
Best to Worst use of Circular economy

  1. REFUSE/RETHINK/REDESIGN: Refuse what is unnecessary; Rethink and Redesign production and consumption models.

  2. REDUCE AND REUSE: Minimise quantity and ecological footprint; Reuse components that are not waste.

  3. PREPARATION FOR REUSE: Checking and cleaning components that can be re-used without any other pre-processing.

  4. RECYCLING/COMPOSTING/ANEROBIC DIGESTION: High quality material recovery from separately collected waste streams.

  5. MATERIAL AND CHEMICAL RECOVERY: Recover materials from mixed wastes into new valuable materials.

  6. RESIDUALS MANAGEMENT: Biologically stabilise things that cannot be recovered from mixed waste before landfilling.

  7. UNACCEPTABLE: Options that do not allow for material recovery, have high environmental impact and create lock-in effects that threaten the transition to zero waste.

Source: Zero Waste Cities Masterplan


More sources on Zero Waste

Zero Waste Europe - Best practices and frameworks in the EU

Zero Waste Plan of Singapore - Very good and detailed practice

Strategic framework and phenomenon of zero waste for sustainable future - A research paper


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