What is the zero waste movement really about?


Many people have now heard of the term ‘zero waste’, and of people who have jars filled with their entire year’s worth of waste. But what exactly is the zero waste movement?

The zero waste movement focuses on maximising resources and minimising waste. The goal is for no rubbish to be sent to landfills, incinerated, or littered in nature, and is guided by the waste hierarchy of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (compost) – in that order. ‘Zero wasters’ care more about refusing, reducing and reusing than recycling or composting because it has a much bigger positive environmental impact.

Striving for zero waste is a way of changing attitudes towards consumerism and our shared resources to create a better system; for example, moving away from a linear (take, make, dump) economy to a circular economy where everything is a potential resource for something else, there is no waste. It’s a protest against a throw-away society, a demonstration that we don’t have to tolerate mindless consumption or the environmental, health and social ramifications that come with it.

Striving for zero waste is not about individual perfection, it never has been. Most zero wasters know this and repeat it often. Instead, it’s about caring and effort; it’s about doing something, because doing something is always better than doing nothing. And to quote Oprah “Doing your best in this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” Before you know it, you will have made plenty of small changes that add up to make a big difference. Everyone is just at a different point in their journey, which is heavily influenced by skills and knowledge, circumstance and privilege. Some people may never be able to participate and that is exactly why those of us who can, should.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you have a waste bin or not, as long as you consume and use resources mindfully and intentionally, and/or advocate for change in business and policy, you are part of the zero waste community and you are helping to drive societal and systemic change.

You are an activist making a difference by being the change you want to see in the world, and that creates the conditions necessary for others to follow suit.


WARRAGUL Ambassador and founder of Gippsland Unwrapped - A Blog about Maximising Resources and Minimising Waste