Zero waste living seems like an impossibility given the amount of packaging everything is put in. Ordering a small item can lead to 10x the packaging of the item itself. The use of packaging seem so out of control that we can’t avoid it. We can.
Back in 2010 a UK based family created only one bin of trash throughout the year. In 2012 we looked at a town in Japan that already practices zero waste living. In the years since it’s actually gotten easier to practice a zero waste lifestelyl. Stores are popping up that are reducing their waste to save costs and the environment by providing customers with alternatives to recent packaging trends.
For most zero-waste shops, the pitch is simple: Customers arrive with their own packaging materials — jars, tote bags, whatever, or buy one of the jars on sale at the store, weigh them, and then subtract the weight of the receptacle from the weight of the goods added to get the final price. That way, nothing ends up in a landfill, at least on the customer’s end.
For the business itself, however, things are more complicated. Owners, who are responsible for the shipment of all products, are tasked with finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint and waste of the complicated process of shipping goods, and some goods are more high-maintenance than others.
Late last year Sweden ran out of garbage which caused problems in their energy network. In an ironic step, Sweden’s efficient waste diversion programs are so good that their trash-burning power plants couldn’t find anything to burn. To keep electricity flowing they turned to neighbour Norway for their trash.
Let’s hope that these waste-diversion programs become just as effective elsewhere!
Aside from the economic benefit, Sweden’s system of sustainability clearly has vast environmental benefits. Aside from traditional recycling programs, their waste-to-energy system ensures minimal environmental impact from the country’s waste.
Sweden’s extremely efficient circle of consumption, waste management, and energy output provides the current global population and coming generations inspiration and guidance towards a more sustainable future. They represent one ally of many who understand the need to live sustainably and who fully commit to doing so.
Before automobiles horse drawn buggies were used for trash collection and it looks like we’re going back to that classic solution. Garbage trucks have a hard time negotiating smaller streets and a benefit of the horses is less exhaust in the city.
For Jean Baptiste, mayor of medieval Peyrestortes, near Perpignan and one of 60 towns now using horses to collect waste, the benefit above all is practical. “You can’t turn a waste collection vehicle around here. We used to block streets to traffic and keep waste in open skips.” He sold off a dustbin lorry and acquired two Breton carthorses instead. Asked whether the changes are saving money, he says: “It’s too early. But money isn’t the only reason. The exhaust smells have gone, the noise has gone, and instead we have the clip-clop of horses’ hooves.”
In Saint Prix, however, in Greater Paris, Mayor Jean-Pierre Enjalbert is certain he is saving money as the novelty of the horses has increased recycling rates. “By using the horse for garden waste collection, we have raised awareness. People are composting more. Incineration used to cost us €107 a tonne, ridiculous for burning wet matter, now we only pay €37 to collect and compost the waste.”
You probably didn’t hear about it, but in 2008 Estonia cleaned up 10,000 tons of trash in their forests by recruiting 50,000 people. How? Through an extensive media campaign and a good dose of networked collaboration.
The “Let’s Do It!” website is here, but in Estonian. So here’s a video in English!
Based on the success in Estonia, the campaign has gone worldwide!
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Or in reality, our waste from consuming can be repurposed and turned into useful resources.
If anyone knows that there’s value in trash, it’s Waste Management — the big waste hauler collects 66 million tons of it every year. So the company has teamed up with a small venture-backed company that has developed a system that can break down some of that trash fast and turn it into natural gas, electricity, compost or all of the above, making some of that trash even more valuable.
Waste Management announced today it has invested in Harvest Power and will develop projects with the company. Harvest builds giant digesters — think of them as cow stomachs — that speed up the composting process. By creating conditions that the bugs that break down organic matter thrive in — a little warmth, a little moisture — and mixing it up to keep the process going, Havest can speed the natural composting process to six to eight weeks from double that. The output? No hamburgers, milk or leather, but otherwise the same as what you’d get from a cow: natural gas and good fertilizer.