What Does Zero Waste to Landfill really mean?

Zero Waste

All the beautiful ecosystems and valuable natural resources of the Earth are drowning in solid waste, especially plastic waste and food waste. Do you know where your trash goes after you throw them away and being picked up? Quick answer: It’s probably polluting the environment.

Unfortunately, this problem will get worse as the population grows. Because of this, many people and organizations have started to go “Zero Waste to Landfill” to tackle this situation.
Does this term sound new to you? Well, let’s discuss what zero waste to landfill means and why it’s necessary!

How Landfills Affect the Environment?

Before we go into how landfills are affecting the environment, here is a quick definition of landfills. A landfill is both a noun, the place where trash and waste are buried, and the action of disposing of trash in an excavating pit.

Landfills should be the last option for waste treatment. Yet, it’s the most popular option around the world because it’s the least expensive practice and there’s no need to sort waste. Usually, the budget for waste management is low, so landfills become the easiest solution to the problem.
Let’s see why landfills is actually an serious issue:

  • Deforestation and destruction of natural ecosystems to create them.
  • Toxic chemicals could leach into the soil and pollute water sources.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions

But that’s just the best scenario! Your garbage might not end up in a landfill(WHAT A WASTE 2.0).
It could end up in an open dump, which creates even more health and environmental problems than landfills, such as air pollution, water contamination, diseases, and more!

On the other hand, as plastic waste is so lightweight, it’s often blown away when it’s being transported to landfills. When this happens, it usually ends up polluting the ocean and affecting marine life! That’s why it’s necessary to have a zero waste goal. This is why we need the movement zero waste to landfills, to prevent the increase of pollution and further damage our environment.

What Exactly is Zero Waste?

Zero waste graphics
As simple as it sounds zero waste to landfill means taking actions to progressively reduce your waste production to the point that you no longer send trash to landfills!

This might sound difficult if you think about all the things you usually throw away. But the good news is that 85% of your “waste” can have a better ending! Learning how to properly dispose and recycle, or even compost is a great way to achieve zero waste to landfill. Other ways include using products that can be reused multiple times. For example, you can reuse or recycle some plastics, compost food scraps, recycle metals, and so on!

However, only go for these alternatives when you can’t avoid waste production. Ideally, you should reduce the consumption of things you don’t need and replace single-use items with reusable options. Below you will learn more about these principles of zero waste!

“Is zero waste to landfill possible?”

Let’s be honest, even though the goal of zero waste is to send absolutely nothing to landfills, eliminating 100% of your trash is an impossible task. So, don’t get too overwhelmed with this. You just have to focus on reducing your waste as much as you can and getting closer to zero every day!

Additionally, the true goal behind zero waste to landfill is to encourage others to appreciate goods and eradicate the throwaway culture. But more importantly, this will push industries to redesign their products and packaging to reduce waste! Zero waste to landfill is more than just having people changing the way they use products, but also to encourage change in the industry and how the world is for a better future.

Easy Principles of Zero Waste to Landfill

Zero waste to landfill includes the 5Rs!
Take a look at your garbage and rethink what’s there. You will find that some products could have been avoided, others could have been composted, replaced, repaired, recycled, or other. All these alternatives are better than sending trash to landfills because it remains useful instead of wasted.

It might sound like too much work, but choosing these alternatives is easier than you think. There are 5 principles you can remember every day to make zero waste possible:

  • Refuse: The best way to go zero waste is not having something to discard in the first place. In simple words, if you don’t need it, avoid it. For example, you don’t need promotional brochures so you can refuse to accept them.
  • Reduce: Make a list of the things you frequently discard and try to reduce them. Do you discard too much paper? You might want to reduce your paper usage and consider digital options.
  • Reuse: Before throwing something away, think if it can be donated, repaired or reused for another purpose. You can also replace single-use products like plastic straws with reusable ones and buy second-hand products instead of something new.
  • Recycle: If you couldn’t refuse, replace, reuse or any other alternative for a recyclable item, then you can consider recycling it. Recycling is better than sending valuable items to landfills, but it’s not the best zero waste practice.
  • Compost: Finally, instead of discarding organic materials like food scraps, compost them and use those nutrients in your garden!

What’s Wrong with Recycling?

Recycling sounds like the perfect solution to solve the current waste problem, but it should be your last step in waste prevention. Yes, recycling is better than wasting and using new resources but all that glitters is not gold.

Even if you feel better by putting these items in the recycling bin, most of them won’t get recycled. Let’s take plastic, for example, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, according to the United Nations (Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution. This World Environment Day, it’s time for a change).

On the other hand, some materials can’t be recycled indefinitely because their quality decreases each time they’re recycled(Howard). So, they will end up in landfills at some point. Therefore, make recycling your last zero waste step and keep these materials useful for longer!

What Does “Zero Waste to Landfill Goal” Mean?

Some companies are adopting a “Zero Waste to Landfill” goal, sound good right? Well, it depends on how they’re making it possible. If their true goal is to avoid waste production, then it’s great. However, if their true goal is to avoid landfills by burning waste, then it’s greenwashing!

According to Eco-cycle Solutions, industries should focus on redesigning their cycle of extraction and production so no resources are wasted at any point (What Zero Waste Is Not: Eco-Cycle Solutions Hub). They could design products that last longer, reduce their use of toxic materials, and use materials that can be easily repaired, reused and recycled.

You can make a difference

A cartoon of people embracing zero waste ideas
Yes! Every item you save from getting into the environment could be saving one animal’s life. If you are consistent, you could save lots of waste from polluting the environment every year. Moreover, you could be inspiring others to go zero waste to landfills too!

It could be frustrating to know that you can’t directly avoid all the waste that industries produce. However, if you refuse to buy disposable items, industries will stop their production. If you support sustainable brands, more companies will implement sustainable practices. Every small action counts!

Interested in learning more about zero waste? We have this article dedicated to zero waste, check it out!

Or if you are ready to start your zero waste to landfill journey, here is the ultimate guide to zero waste home.

Resources:
“How Our Trash Impacts the Environment.” 16 Dec. 2019. Web. 23 Oct. 2020.
Howard, Brian Clark. “5 Recycling Myths Busted.” National Geographic. 31 Oct. 2018. Web. 23 Oct. 2020.
“Our Planet Is Drowning in Plastic Pollution. This World Environment Day, It’s Time for a Change.” #BeatPlasticPollution This World Environment Day. Web. 23 Oct. 2020.
“WHAT A WASTE 2.0.” Trends in Solid Waste Management. Web. 23 Oct. 2020.
“What Zero Waste Is Not: Eco-Cycle Solutions Hub.” Eco Cycle Solutions. Web. 23 Oct. 2020.
               
Author: Monica Chang
Started my ethical journey in 2010. Always looking for better options for me and the environment.