What is waste if not a portrayal of errors in resource allocation and an indication of inefficiency in the modern society we live in? In order to understand the development of the Zero Waste concept, we need to look back and determine when consumption and inefficient disposal of litter started to negatively impact the environment. This approach does not only set limitations but also aims to rethink how individuals and nations operate as social units and economies within a finite planet.
The Cold War is the historical standpoint when scholars started developing an interest in the problem of consumption and moderation or lack thereof. Political clashes between the capitalist West and socialist East led to economic growth, as after the 1990s developing societies started to hyper consume. As a result, colossal amounts of natural resources were depleted due to the increasing demand for the products that were newly made available. Subsequently, as technological advances progressed, the consumerist behaviour thrived under the prolific conditions.
Taking into consideration the above-stated information, action needs to be taken in order to reduce the harmful effects of the consumerist behavior. The Zero Waste concept comes as aid to this problem. Zero waste means designing and managing products and processes systematically to avoid and eliminate waste, and to recover all resources from the waste stream. Material flow is circular in a zero waste system, which means the same materials are used until the optimum level of consumption. Therefore, no materials are wasted or underused in the circular system.
This has become a worldwide movement which prompts changes in design, that would make the disassembling and recycling of products possible. Zero waste encompasses concepts that already exist in sustainability, such as reducing, redesigning, repairing, reusing and re-distributing waste resources. However, the concept of zero waste is not limited to recycling but aims to eliminate avoidable waste from the first stages of creating a product by using innovative designs. This shift towards sustainable development requires a series of holistic strategies, with education and research being at the top of the list. At present, several efficient zero waste practices have been put forward and implemented through cities, companies, individuals, and the waste recycling industry. Zero Waste Scotland is a platform that enables the aforementioned categories to adopt zero waste lifestyles, by making information available to all audiences, free of charge. With initiatives such as ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ and ‘Love your Clothes’, a clear message of encouragement is sent to individuals. Moreover, a ‘Circular Economy Investment Fund’ is made available for companies, functioning as an incentive to engage with the cause. In addition, the public sector and local authorities are not neglected but offered support and funding.
The Zero Waste strategy is a business mechanism that, when embedded into business processes, provides a goal that can lead to innovative ways to identify, prevent and reduce waste. It encourages sustainability by protecting the environment, reducing costs and producing additional jobs in the management and handling of waste back into the industrial cycle. Zero Waste strategy may be applied to homes, communities, schools, businesses and industrial sectors. Therefore, with its global relevance, the zero-waste concept takes an active stand against errors in resource allocation and mishandling of waste.