June 18, 2019

When Zero Waste Is a Waste of Time

“My feelings regarding the “zero-waste movement” are vast and varied, but come in many shades of upset. I’m upset when I see a friend wracked with guilt when she succumbs to buying a plastic water bottle on an oppressively hot afternoon. I’m upset when a bratty roommate preaches the zero-waste gospel to me when I know they drive half a mile to work every day. I’m upset that I’m expending energy being upset over a movement that is well-intentioned instead of on one that is not.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, the zero-waste movement 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,” or, put more simply, consuming less shit so you have less shit to throw away. The movement has become prominent in recent years as a response to increasingly alarming news of plastic-clogged waterways, growing landfills, and insufficiently low recycling rates.

It all sounds pretty good. I am definitely a proponent of resource conservation and waste reduction. I would love for consumption to be less of a strain on the environment. My exasperation rests in the gap between this definition and its real-life execution, which seems to be focused primarily on one type of waste: household plastic.”

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