What is Zero Waste?
Zero Waste = sending nothing to landfill by:
REDUCING what we use,
REUSING everything we can,
RECYCLING what we can’t reduce/reuse
COMPOSTING what’s left
Wales has some of the best recycling rates in the world - in fact, for household waste recycling we’re:
- 1st in the UK,
- 2nd in Europe
- 3rd the world
That’s great! But when only 52% of supermarket packaging can be easily recycled and over 50% of the litter found on Wales’ streets could be recycled at home, it’s clear that recycling alone is not the answer!
What’s more the recycling systems across Wales collect recyclables together (here in Newport its cardboard with glass and plastic with aluminium), but as not all types of plastic are recyclable (and they don’t make it very clear!) it’s not difficult to contaminate the recycling stream, when this happens it all gets sent straight to landfill.
This is why reduction of resources and reuse of materials is so important and this is where Zero Waste comes in.
Zero Waste is “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.”
(see Why Do We Need a Circular Economy).
Wales aims to be a zero waste nation by 2050 and in 2019 the Welsh Government released its Beyond Recycling strategy. To achieve these aims the Welsh Government will work to “enable communities to take collective action: Supporting citizens and communities to do the small things that add up to making a big difference”.
400,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in Wales each year, of which around 67% is packaging waste. If everyone reduced their consumption even by 25% we could reduce this by 100,000 tonnes.
This can be done by making changes at home, school, university, work and on the go to reduce single use consumption and reuse materials where possible. Zero waste spaces such as shops and community hubs can provide the tools and support needed to achieve this, aiming to make these services as accessible for the local community as possible.
Here are 3 ways it can be done:
Zero Waste shops offer a refill service, where the customers can bring in their own containers and fill up from package free bulk produce such as, whole foods, cleaning products and bathroom refills. Reusing containers in this way reduces waste to landfill and the market for plastic production.
Check out Sero Zero Waste’s refill service here.
How it works:
Bring your own containers (BYOC)
- Just starting your zero waste journey? No problem you can buy reusable containers in the store! Or if you find you have forgotten your own then make use of second hand containers donated by other customers.
Fill your container from package free bulk dispensers
- You are only obliged to take what you need, no predetermined packaged products here!
- This not only reduces packaging waste but minimises food waste too.
Reweigh your filled containers
- all products are paid for by weight, so you only pay for what you want.
The issue is not with plastic per se but our single use consumption habits - yes the way plastic is produced, used and disposed of, makes it a dangerous participant in the game of single use but the buck doesn’t stop there. Sustainable and reusable alternatives are an important tool in reducing our consumption of any material. Most zero waste shops provide alternatives to things like cling film and foil, straws and cutlery, wet wipes, cotton buds, plastic bags, water bottles, sanitary items and these days even face masks. Not only are you helping the environment but you’re helping your pocket too - reusable items will pay for themselves very quickly. They are essentially a one time purchase so see it as an investment, you no longer need to purchase a cheap alternative on a regular basis.
Where reusable items aren’t available the best thing you can do is firstly assess if the item is a need or a want? Secondly source sustainable (ideally locally sourced) alternatives such as bamboo cotton bud sticks or package free toilet roll.
Check out Sero Zero Waste’s Eco Products here.
As well as through sourcing products from local businesses wherever possible as a retail business, Zero Waste shops can also empower the local community by providing the right support and outreach to those looking to make more sustainable choices. In other words they not only make shopping zero-waste as convenient as possible but can also act as ‘zero waste’ hub’s where the local community can take action against unnecessary waste.
This can be through:
- Green workshops allow people to learn new skills
- examples include making your own products such as soaps, toiletries and wax food wraps, as well as food waste and sustainable cookery demonstrations or learning basic repair skills such as sewing.
- Repair Café is a non-profit organisation that aims to encourage people to keep items in use for longer, replacing the need to buy new products and encourages less material consumption. The workshops rely on specialists and residents to volunteer their time and skills so they can fix gadgets that fit their skill sets and available resources. This is truly a community building exercise by allowing participants to learn new skills and forge connections with others in their area, as well as helping divert waste from landfill. Donations are also available through the scheme to support local groups.
- Fast fashion uses quick and cheap production methods to make clothing we can buy cheaply in high street stores. As a result this clothing is usually not durable or of great quality, they tend to be made from mainly non-recyclable materials such as polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide which release micro-plastics into our waterways when washed, and in order to create them cheaply it’s entirely possible that the garment workers are not being paid a fair wage. Add on top of this that we now seem to have told ourselves that it's a big no-no to be repeatedly seen in the same outfit and our perception of how long clothing should last us is completely warped.
- Clothes Swaps are an environmentally friendly way of accessing new clothing instead of buying new products. Community clothes swaps can play an important part in creating a circular solution to clothing by extending the life of each product.
- meeting up (Covid-19 restrictions allowing) and cleaning up some litter is an easy way to help out and contribute to a cleaner environment. While it doesn’t prevent the problem, litter picks are still needed. They are also a great way of bringing the community together and highlight the consequences of single use consumption.
- some organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society also encourage pickers to collect data to identify where the source of the problem is coming from and drive change.
- Keep Wales Tidy run local litter pick hubs where you can access free equipment and helpful resources, find your local hub here.
Drop off points
- zero waste shops often work with other organisations such as Terracycle to provide drop off points for the public to dispose of difficult to recycle items.
Sero Zero Waste are already making many of these initiatives in Newport City Centre and will continue to expand them with Newport's first Zero Waste Shop.