Products delivered in the millions by companies in the zillion all ready on the double. Delivery happens via plane, train, or truck, to almost definitely generate waste in packaging, plastics, and/or Styrofoam.

We create way, way too much trash.

Good news is, the zero-waste future is not only possible but also inevitable in a crowded world such as ours.

What is the Zero-waste Movement? Definition & Ideology

Zero-waste activism becomes cumulative. 

Remember, respect, refuse, reduce, reuse, return, refill, rot, restore, repurpose, repair, recycle.

The zero-waste movement has a holistic approach to mismanagement of solid waste as civic engagement and sub-activism to link acts of mundane citizenship, lifestyle decisions, and social mechanisms to support the none-waste lifestyle and cause.

A zero-waste society embraces anti-consumerism to eliminate trash output. No plastic, no wrappers, cut out disposable packaging, no garbage, no nothing. Zero trash to landfill.

The rationale for joining the zero-waste movement has its roots in a palette of virtues ranging from climate and environmental awareness to animal welfare, personal health, personal experience, education, self-motivation, a need to change the world, or a combo of distinct lifestyles such as veganism, organic foodies, or minimalist all bound by the rewarding feeling of accomplishment for being a good example.

Mette Pedersen

The zero-waste movement embodies a radical-democratic model manifested in consumer responsibility. Small, ordinary acts for sustainability grounded in the individual’s principles and morale are an important dimension of democracy.

Mundane citizenship empowers the average person of zero connection to political organizations, NGOs, or social movements to engage, take part, and bring change.

Zero-waste Movement and its Impact 

Zero Waste, Jump Start Jobs, No Welfare for Wasting, Zero Waste by 2040, Organics Out of Landfills, No Burn, No Bury, No Toxics, are just some initiatives because of the movement.

According to Richard Anthony from ZWIA, activism lives in Brazil, Canada, England, France, Switzerland, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, USA, and Wales. 

ZWIA’s global programs promote cooperation with local governments, activist groups, student and professional organizations encouraging people to build & implement no-waste manners to serve the design of resource administration systems towards the reduction of trash.

The zero-waste movement is promoting the reform of the individual’s lifestyle, as impact comes in size.

NGO Urban Ore estimates to divert over 8,000 tons of waste away from landfill per year.

Based on self-learning and study on plastic harm, followers foster educated and conscious choices for daily grocery shopping, hygiene, and household products.

Statistics on zero-waste movement

  • 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste daily worldwide headed to 7.5 million by the end of the century.
  • Zero-waste lifestyles correspond with mounting evidence climate change will be the defining event of this century. 
  • 4.7 to 12.8 million metric tons of plastic in the oceans.
  • 60% of clothing is synthetic plastic fibers and upon washing releases microplastics.
  • 23% of landfill waste is packaging and containers.
  • the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a damning report that revealed just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions (most are oil & gas companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP).
  • in 2016, transport overhauled the previously #1 carbon dioxide emitter – power plants with a 1/4  from medium- to heavy-duty delivery trucks.
  • 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and use of daily goods, such as food and domestic products.
  • 18 billion pounds worth of plastic waste flows into the oceans each year
  • Landfills are changing and destroying animals’ natural habitats. Clearing land via deforestation to extend landfills ruins the homes of hundreds of species. Loss of habitat is one of the largest threats to 85% of the species in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, according to WWF.
  • Half of all 8,300 million tonnes of plastic ever produced was made in the past 13 years and of all plastic that’s ever been discarded, only roughly 9% has been recycled. 
  • average American tosses about 4.4 pounds of trash per day or between 1,500 and  1,600 pounds of waste per year.
  • 10,000 tons of waste per day at a large US landfill.
  • 75% to 80% of all domestic waste is an organic matter you can compost.

How large is the zero-waste movement

As per today, there are more than 1,100 000 pages on the web talking about zero-waste 

How many people are in the zero-waste movement 

Grows by the hour.

Leaders of zero-waste movement

Shifting approach and concept of trash, the zero-waste leaders teach the world. 

“Zero-waste is the only strategy that can save these legendary seabirds and the oceans where they feed and breed.”

– Charles Moore, author of Plastic Ocean

“A practical theory of how to wring maximum efficiency from the use of resources”.

Paul Palmer, PhD chemist & founder of Zero Waste Systems Inc

However, he also points out that zero-waste is not a lifestyle choice because individual choices will not affect large, social change. Zero-waste is about reusing everything over and over again in order to reduce waste, which can only be done if reuse is implemented into the design.

“Each community victory against incineration and for Zero Waste is a victory for all of us’’

Rossano Ercolini, a school teacher from Capanori, Italy, and that country’s leading Zero Waste advocate awarded the 2014 Goldman Prize for Environmental Leadership in Europe. “Like democracy the Zero Waste movement is built on many small meetings with neighbors and peers.”

Zero Waste Business

The zero-waste movement praises businesses that use, design and sell products or services that diminish litter sent to landfill by either repurposing or eliminating junk thus achieve natural sustainability. A zero-waste business eliminates single-use items such as clothes, food and other packaging, bottles, cosmetics, paper, and organic leftovers via alternative plastic-free and sustainable products.

At best, a zero-waste business will develop cycles to reuse discarded materials from process X as resources for process Y. At the consumer level, the number of zero-waste stores grows worldwide.

Unfortunately, the no-waste concept and habits cause lobbyists to pitch zero-waste as equal to incineration to shareholders and the wide public thus corrupting ideals driving the movement. Garbage incinerators cause severe air pollution and ash, which still needs a landfill. Zero waste and incineration are mutually exclusive. It’s a self-contradicting pair that goes against the culture of convenience economics.

Truth is, we vote with our money and big business has to listen. 

The problem is the lavish overconsumption of resources we don’t reuse. If you want to do what’s right, then teach yourself, friends, and family why reducing waste matters.

  • Avoid single-use disposables.
  • Avoid what you can not recycle.
  • Support businesses of reusable products.

Certification of businesses and communities was the goal of the “Zero Waste brand”. The Zero Waste International Alliance and Grass Roots Recycling Network (dba ZWUSA) assisted with guiding the effort through the United States Zero Waste Business Council.

Zero waste movement roots 

Who started the zero waste movement and when did the zero waste lifestyle movement start?

Prior to the industrial revolution, the no-waste philosophy was integral to humanity starting from pre-modern times all the way back to ancient civilizations. As a matter of fact, people living back then would condemn the wasteful life we have now. That being said, the essence of the zero-waste life has its roots in the dawn of humanity. 

Still, considering the ongoing state of dross, there are a few organizations and notable people who push the zero-waste movement forward today.

Who started the zero waste movement?

The first and most popular mention comes from Mr. Paul Palmer. A Ph.D. chemist, who founded the Zero Waste Systems Inc. company in California (USA). 

Although not like the ideology it is today, that’s the oldest mention we have.

When did the zero waste movement start?

Modern historians consider the first Zero Waste Conference held in December 2000 in Kataia, New Zealand. 

Zero Waste Movement History 

The popular no-waste movement derived from the bigger movement environmentalism.

According to Merriam-Webster, it is “advocacy of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment.” and dates back to ancient Rome, but modern zero-waste kicks off in the 19th century.

1950s Post-war America

It’s when US propaganda established unnecessary consumerism and the foundation of the modern economy. Although just a few, some saw the upcoming pollution from reckless consumerism.

1970s Zero Waste Systems

Paul Palmer, a Ph.D. chemist, founded the company Zero Waste Systems Inc. in California, US. 

1980s Urban Ore & Recycling

Daniel Knapp’s concept of Total Recycling. 

The Knapp family established the legendary Urban Ore salvaging operation and market in a building meant as a trash incinerator. The project demonstrates that communities can reuse junk otherwise sent to landfill 

In parallel, people across the US embraced composting, recycling, and sustainable waste management, while structures like the National Coalition Against Mass Burn Incineration and Safe Alternatives and the Sound Resource Management Group grew awareness of trash management practices.