Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources and not burn or bury them. This is the definition of the Zero Waste philosophy given by the Zero Waste International Alliance. Implementing such a lifestyle will help to reduce existing threats to the planet.
We are all aware that not all the plastics that we use can be recycled. As we are all aware that with some small changes we could all make a difference. Sometimes the number of things we own is inversely proportional to the level of happiness. That’s why Zero Waste communities are spreading around the world.
Although the circular economy still seems to be a foreign concept in the awareness of public perception in Central and Eastern Europe, a Zero Waste lifestyle seems to be gaining a foothold in this region as well.
According to Eurostat, the amount of municipal waste generated per person in the European Union (EU) in 2017 amounted to 487 kilograms, an increase from the data of 2014.
Indeed, Central and Eastern European countries are generating less than 350 kg of municipal waste per person, well below the EU average. Romania ranked as the country producing less waste (only 272 kg/person), followed by Poland (315 kg/person) and the Czech Republic (344 kg/person).
The best example comes from the city of Sălacea, located in the North-West part of Romania. Before the implementation of their pioneering door-to-door collection system, Sălacea had less than 1 per cent separate collection and recycling rates. After only three months it went up to 60 per cent.
Recycling is only one of the principles of Zero Waste philosophy. It also includes:
- Refuse: the refusal to buy things with lots of packaging;
- Reduce: don’t buy things you don’t really need;
- Reuse: repurpose worn-out items, shop for used goods, and purchase reusable products like steel water bottles;
- Compost: up to 80 per cent of waste by weight is organic. But this rarely decomposes in landfills.
A Zero Waste lifestyle starts with purchasing decisions, proper planning and setting up a system for what and how materials enter our homes in the first place.
The Zero Waste association of Montenegro has set up some guidelines to help people feeling good about the changes they are making in their life while embracing a Zero Waste lifestyle.
One of the first steps is to create a small compost bin in our home and put in there all your food scraps and peelings. Also using a reusable bag, considering that a single-use plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. A reusable bag can be practical also to buy food that is usually wrapped in plastics. A growing number of people, often part of a zero-waste movement, buys fewer clothes and second-hand. They also suggest to use soap and stop buying body wash in packaging.
In this regard, Slovenia’s capital Lubjiana has seen zero-waste stores becoming an important trend. Ljubljana’s Reuse Centre features a vending machine that sells organic cleaning supplies, shampoos, several varieties of vinegar and oil to customers who bring their own (reusable) packaging.
As Katarzyna Wągrowska, author of the first book about Zero Waste in Poland said a zero-waste lifestyle is basically a way on how to save the world and creating something great for future generations.