Is Zero Waste Possible?

A loaded question that is not so easy to answer; the definition of zero waste is ambiguous, yet this lifestyle concept has been adopted by thousands of people worldwide. When we live in a world surrounded by non-recyclable plastic, single use packaging and mass consumerism, is it really possible for individuals to go zero waste?

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Zero waste, a circular economy and cradle-to-cradle are all similar concepts with the focus on changing traditional product life-cycles so that all resources are continuously reused, rather than products starting as merchandise and ending as waste. Zero waste aims for no products to be sent to landfill or incinerators and for all discarded materials to become resources for others to use. Our blog post The 5 R’s to Zero Waste Living explains the steps you might be able to take in place of sending things to landfill.

A frequently asked question when it comes to zero waste is where does the responsibility lie? Many companies are announcing that their factories are zero waste, alongside individuals on social media. It is thought that in the US only 3% of solid waste comes from households and 97% is industrial waste, highlighting the importance it is for businesses to adopt zero waste practises and for individuals to prioritise supporting these brands over the packaging they consume directly.

Infographic on recycling glass jar full of plastic waste


When it comes to living a zero waste lifestyle as an individual, it can be be both inspiring and intimidating to see Lauren Singer’s mason jar containing all her waste that she has collected since she began her zero waste journey. Paired with the criticism and negativity you can receive online as soon as you try to make a positive lifestyle change, it is easy to feel that zero waste living is impossible. With this, it is worth exploring what alternatives there are for those wanting to live more waste-free without having to endure the potential difficulties and overwhelmingness of trying to live zero waste.

One alternative which has been introduced by lifestyle blogger, Sustainably Vegan. Talking about living a low waste lifestyle, she addresses the fact that as humans with unpredictable lives we will have to produce waste and rather than letting this discourage us we should embrace this as part of living low waste. This has led to the low impact movement emerging, the evidence of this can be seen on Instagram, where 17.6k posts using the #lowimpactmovement demonstrate a clear appetite for people wanting to cut down on their waste without going completely zero waste.

It is important to remember the reason why you want to adopt this lifestyle, as it all comes back to sustainability. If you can’t realistically sustain a 100% zero waste lifestyle, then you are better off living a low waste lifestyle that you can consistently maintain. Do what you can and strive to do better without putting pressure on yourself. The best thing to remember about living in a more environmentally friendly way, zero waste or not, is that small steps can have a tremendous impact, both in empowering your actions to continually improve as well as helping to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill. A good example of this is the plastic-straw, a seemingly insignificant everyday item which we consume without really thinking about. Yet in the US alone, the amount of straws they use everyday could circle the world 2.5 times (500 million to be precise). Using a reusable alternative, e.g. bamboo drinks straw, although a seemingly simple and straightforward action, helps to immediately reduce the demand for plastic waste which too often ends up in our oceans.

If you would like to see our top tips to reduce your waste click here.