To move toward less trash-ridden societies, based on zero-waste economies, we need to do far more than simply reduce the amount of household garbage that people generate. Humans are literally creating new geological features with rubbish built up in massive landfills all across the countryside. As a result, toxic chemicals build up and then inevitably leech into food and water supplies. The worst part is that the problem just keeps piling up — literally.
Homo sapiens have grown out of touch with Gaia, but people are inextricably linked to their environment. This is why our species needs to do far more waste management by setting up numerous facilities of various different kinds all over the planet. Ultimately, this would produce more jobs and cleaner neighborhoods. Street-level grassroots participation efforts are great for reducing landfills, but the producers really need to work as hard, if not harder at this than the consumers do. That’s the only way that people will ever really cut back on waste in a way that might actually matter.
Think about it, if I go to a store to buy container-less products off of the shelf to put in my own reusable glass jars and cloth bags that I bring from home, then the store still had to get the merchandise in disposable packaging in the first place. In one form or another, companies just sell stuff along with trash. Truth be told, many of the products that are sold around the world shouldn’t even really be on the market, but that’s a whole different story.
To help cope with things like this, recycling and composting need to be on everyone’s mind in some form or another. Ideally, legislation needs to make these practices mandatory. Otherwise, governments should at least use financial incentives to encourage people in the right direction. Since this problem can affect anyone, every country needs to model itself after places like the city of San Francisco or the futuristic central business district of South Korea. The waste management protocols and procedures of the past are far too outdated for the modern world. It’s time for something better.
Increased regulation is absolutely vital in all of this. The way I see it, we need a whole bunch of people checking to make sure that everyone else is actually doing the right thing. Official inspections are critical to this process. Every city needs to have a system in place to separately landfill, compost, and recycle all waste. In this way, sanitation workers can then collect and further sort the trash. During this process, inspectors can check the bins on the street as well as the facilities that receive the waste, to control the quality of the efforts being made. That’s lots and lots and lots of jobs, and very little trash, and that’s exactly what we need.
Most waste is just untapped resources and that should be consciously recognized in daily life. In the Anthropocene, plastic is literally becoming part of everything as it breaks down and builds up in the environment. This is why the production of plastic needs to be halted immediately and ultimately banned altogether. All the plastic littering the oceans and streets needs to be recycled or fed to the rare organisms that can digest discarded plastic in the cases that render it useless. There is simply no need to produce virgin plastic from petrochemicals when it’s possible to remake pellets of every grade and type.
This is all part of a multi-layered problem that requires numerous solutions. Zero waste is going to require top-down and bottom-up approaches, as well as everything in between. For instance, composting is an essential part of this. Food waste, yard trimmings, soiled paper, and so much more can be converted into much-needed fertilizer. Exporting compostables to farms in this way helps create a closed-loop in the agricultural industries. Hardened unhealthy soil is bad and this can help farmers prevent it. Unfortunately, this can’t happen if it all just goes to the dump instead. This is why every city should just be required to have composting facilities in their communities.
Another area of special interest in all of this is that of the e-waste dilemma. The ever-growing crisis of obsolete electronic devices is reaching a critical tipping point of poisonous proportions. Toxic chemicals from these waste products are killing people the world over, especially in Asia and Africa. Unbeknownst to many, old computers and televisions end up getting dumped in third world countries. As a result of this, the impoverished people in those places are oblivious to the health risks that these devices pose so they strip the trash of anything of value, only putting themselves in harms way in the process. They’re being set up for failure by consumers on other continents.
To help with this kind of thing, certain progressive companies have set up kiosks that allow people to properly dispose of objects like batteries and cell phones. This is a major step in the right direction. Salvaged hardware can be reused far more responsibly. Planned obsolescence may help out a few people in the private sector but it really just does harm to the public. Nearly anything can be processed into something else, it’s just a matter of finding the most cost-effective way of doing it in order to keep everyone satisfied in profit-based capitalist economies.
I simply can’t overemphasize the importance of reuse in all of this too. It is so important for you to donate anything reusable that you need to discard of. Never, ever, throw away something that someone else might want. Processing facilities are able to resell items like clothes, either to customers on the sales floor or to textile companies that use old fabrics to make new ones. This helps to close yet another loop, so nothing goes to waste.
As we make this asymptotic journey toward a cleaner more sustainable future, humanity will get closer and closer to the point of maximum waste reduction. However, for right now, the goal of every nation should be to at least attain 90% diversion. Simply put, the more that everyone, especially the corporations, makes an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, then the closer humanity will get toward the ideal goal of zero waste.
It’s all really just based on common sense. The more you are able to reuse what you already have, the less money you will have to spend on new things. This is standard minimalist philosophy — less is more, in this context. It’s all part of the process of being an ecologically mindful consumer. There are countless paths towards the goal of zero waste, it’s up to you take part in any and every way that you can. We all have to do whatever it takes to get us there, and we need to do it as quickly as possible. There is absolutely no reason for the world to be so trashy.