Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Does Zero Waste need a re-brand?

I have always been pretty good at not wasting too much stuff.  I think it brushed off from my mother who was born just before WWII and spent all her early years eeking things out, making them last and only throwing them away when they really had reached the point of zero usefulness. As her generation grew into young adults they took 2 very different paths.  Some threw off the shackles of the austere war years and others, like my Mum just carried on as before.  Those who changed started to buy more things and would have seen their waste levels creep up. They enjoyed the convenience of ready meals as they started to appear in the shops in the 70s and as they had money and things were freely available nobody questioned if they wasted some food, threw away the Christmas wrapping paper of filled their bin with plastic packaging etc.  In contrast we never wasted food and Mum knew how to make meals from left-overs, we had to open our presents carefully so the paper could be reused for the next year (and the one after that) and my mother did not waste her money on a lot of stuff she felt we didn't need ... stuff that was increasingly to be found in more and more packaging.

All this rubbed off on me. At university I read Environmental Science and a friend once pointed out that I was Green long before it was trendy to be so.

Fast forward a few years though, and with the advent of the Internet I learnt of a whole new level of waste reduction that I could never have envisaged >>> Zero-Waste. I saw pictures of zero-wasters holding a small glass jar containing their entire waste for a year – in some cases even more than that. Oh my goodness me. I thought I was good at not creating waste but it seems I am not. No, there are zero-wasters out there who have all but eliminated waste in their lives.

Image from Inhabitat

The moment I saw these images of tiny jars filled with even tinier amounts of waste I was immediately put off investigating the zero waste movement any further and I knew I could never compete at those levels. For a start my pig food comes in plastic bags. I do reuse them but eventually they end up in landfill although I could argue that the pork/ham etc I produce from my own pigs creates considerably less plastic packaging than were I to buy the same products in the shops. And to be honest, in some cases going zero waste is actually a poorer choice for the environment overall.  My nearest bulk shop is a 50km round trip away so hardly very green if I was to drive there unless I was to stock up with loads – and there is a lot of food you cannot stock up on. I like my bananas both fresh (obviously) and organic but the organic ones in my local shop are plastic wrapped … can I really be better off driving 50kms to get the non plastic wrapped ones so I can become zero waste? And what of other environmental factors?  Maybe a waste free product is imported from the other side of the world, or contains palm oil etc.  Waste is not the only environmental factor to consider.

Now do not get me wrong. I am not in any way anti zero waste and we absolutely need to reduce how much waste we produce.
All of us. 

We all dump stuff in the bin and forget about it and yet each and every one of us who has ever thrown anything away will have added to the problem of too much landfill, too much litter and too much pollution. Which is where I finally get to the point that I feel naming a waste reduction movement Zero-Waste is too much for too many people to relate to. How many think, like me, that they can never achieve zero-waste and so are be put off even starting along their own journey of waste reduction?  Because waste reduction is a journey. You don't simply jump from a weekly overflowing dustbin one day to producing so little waste that you do not even fill a tiny jar after a year.   No, you take little steps here and there and gradually cut back your waste and slim down your bin day by day, week by week. But if you cannot get people engaged in the first place they won't even take that first step. 

Now I know some will argue that you have to show what can be achieved at the extreme level to get people to make those changes. So let me ask you this? How many people do you know who have thought about going to the gym to lose some weight but have been put off by the thought of all those super-fit people working out every day without raising so much as a bead of sweat? They may pay the gym membership but in reality they are never going to go because they find the whole thing totally unachievable. 

I feel that for all it's good messages, Zero Waste is that gym and zero wasters are those sweat free super athletes.
And I can never be one of them.

So in my very humble opinion I think the Zero-Waste movement needs a re-brand – something that will help grab the attention of everyone, at what-ever stage they are at, and help us work towards reducing how much waste we all produce.  After all, when you think about it on a bigger scale, which is better?  A small number of people going zero-waste or everyone slimming down their bins by 50%?  Get everyone on board first and then you can ramp up the pressure on both the public and manufacturers to do more ... or should that be less?!

I am not sure I know what the re-brand should be but it needs to be something that everyone can easily associate with as well as being catchy.  What about “Waste Busters” or "Bin Slimming"?  You see every time you reduce how much waste you add to your bin you can proclaim you are a waste buster of you've slimmed your bin but until you have got down to the tiny jar you cannot say you are a Zero-Waster. You may be on a zero waste journey but I very much doubt the vast majority of us are there or will ever get there. 

What do you think?  Are you a Zero-Waster and this idea of zero waste inspires you and am I totally off course or do we need a different way to get the waste message across?  Does Zero-Waste need a re-brand and is it even the answer to our problems?

A Green and Rosie Life


  1. Zero Waste is an aim..but possibly not achievable?
    I always wonder if some of the zero wasters are those who leave excess wrappings at the checkout till? Passing the buck?

    1. That is the sad truth (today at any rate) that zero waste is not achievable for the vast majority of people ... so I worry that promoting something with a name that isn't chievable is a turn off for some people. I suspect the waste left at the checkout is people wanting to make a point but their actions also need to be followed with explanations to the company and the public as to why they are doing it. Thanks for popping by and commenting gz.

  2. My opinion? um no. I think it's a good aim! Zero! But that's just me.

    1. I am not saying it is not a great aim and overall it is but I am proposing that, as with any single focus, it is not without its shortfalls ... and promoting such an extreme aim in today's world is practically impossible for the vast majority of people to achieve so the name could be off-putting for some people.

  3. I took part in Karen Cannard's Rubbish Diet - the slogan is Slim your bin. Which is a better target for most of us I think. I used reusable shopping bags before the tax, and I aim to cut down on packaging but it's hard in a big family.

    1. Yes, this is the start. My offering is that we ought not approach #zerowaste with an idea of being perfect, or competing with others. Instead, #zerowaste is the light on the hill and we are intent on taking steps, however small and seemingly insignificant, toward that goal. As we go along, we share our story and #raiseawareness and encourage and motivate others to join.
      This is a progress, not perfection, movement.
      Thank you
      Join Plastic Free July

  4. I am with you. I remember the moment I was put off zero waste. Local news followed a town household's waste journey. They got down to a small yoghurt pot one week. I gave up (not completely, of course). First I would struggle to achieve zero waste. Secondly, I wonder how true it is. Lot of food transported is packaged in transit, even if it is displayed for sale package free. If I buy loose, am I fooling myself? I might buy a sandwich from a sandwich shop and only throw a paper bag away, but the shop is still throwing packaging away on my behalf. There is still waste, just not in my bin. Thinking about it, maybe the yoghurt pot is achievable.

    To go zero waste, you would have to change your lifestye and make compromises. Probably be totally self sufficient.

    I'd like to see a staged approach, like you suggest. Why not brand the one bin-ers, half bin-ers, and less wasters, and celebrate their success too.

  5. Love this...'Zero Waste is that gym and zero wasters are those sweat free super athletes. And I can never be one of them.'
    I think a lot of people can relate to that. I agree that the term 'zero waste' probably puts a lot of people off, it's setting people up for failure right from the start.
    As a family I know for a fact that we will never be completely zero waste but I am enjoying the process of reducing and minimizing our life. #WasteLessWednesday

  6. I love this idea. I vote waste busters, but bin slimmers is fun too. I see people with mason jars of trash and applaud them, but you won’t find that on my site. I didn't realize all those mason jars might turn people off. I try to applaud reductions of any scale. Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday blog hop!

  7. Hi Rosie,
    I totally agree with you. We can only do what we can do. I try very hard to cut back on plastic as much as possible and I think it is a good idea to possibly change it from Zero Waste to "Waste Busters" Truthfully I never quite understood how someone could be zero plastic waste as they say the are. It a little mind blogging. I am all for rebranding the name. Visiting from #WasteLessWednesday blog hop.

  8. I agree with you too, I love the idea of zero waste but it's not achievable for most of us (for example there's no bulk stores anywhere near me, I buy my fruit and veg unpackaged but grains and beans are impossible to buy waste free). I've worked in healthfood stores, supermarkets and clothes shops and all of the products come packed in plastic, boxes and plastic wrap which is removed before it even hits the shelves (in one clothes shop pretty much every item of clothing came boxed, then bagged in sets of 10 inside the box, the each individual item was plastic wrapped over the coathanger - all this was removed before we put the items out, so depressing).

    I do think that if we all reduce a bit that's better than a few extreme zero-wasters, but I also think we need shops and manufacturers to change their way to make it easier.

  9. I don't think zero waste is going to happen but we should all still try

  10. Yes! You are absoulutely right. I bet many people get actually scared off by this name, I am far away from zero waste, but aware and slimming waste nearly my whole life, avoiding plastic as much as possible, but sometimes I actually feel like a loser because I am not close to zero! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  11. Hmmm...I'm not sure how to respond. I think we should keep "Zero Waste" because it already has a following, it's a cute little package and I fear a re-branding would dilute our solidarity? (although obviously it also in my blog name!) But at the same time, I completely agree with your comments. It's not about the jar. Media likes to make it about the jar because it makes a nice picture and has that "Wow" factor. But aren't there enough of us blogging about the realities of Zero Waste to bring those expectations down to earth? I hope...maybe I'm not able to see ZW from the outside anymore...

  12. It's a bit like 'anti-consumerism', non? I am part of an anti-consumerism Facebook group and would consider myself an 'anti-consumerist', but am I against ALL consumption? No, of course not. But it gets the point across, right?

  13. I like the idea of bin slimming! I don't think I could zero waste, but we are conscious about how much goes to landfill - our black bin is the smallest of our wheelie bins (the half sized sort) we have one recycle bin and two green bins. Thanks for hosting #goinggreenlinky


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