What is Zero Waste?
We like to think of zero waste as a lifestyle or set of principles that encourage consumption reduction through reusing and recovering materials that would otherwise be sent to recycling facilities or landfill. While it may be difficult to attain a completely zero waste lifestyle, it is indeed possible to attain a minimal waste lifestyle!
The focus should be on progress, not perfection – it is always better to approach waste reduction as a process, rather then being overwhelmed and in turn do nothing at all. Those small meaningful changes, can really add up!
What does a zero waste lifestyle look like?
It might surprise you to know that a zero waste lifestyle probably doesn’t look too different from the lifestyle you are currently living. Refusing plastic and packaged materials, reusing what you can, and being more mindful of your consumption habits are key to adopting a zero waste lifestyle.
Remember, focus on progress, not perfection!
Five Top Principles of Zero Waste
- Refuse – Refuse to buy anything with packaging.
Take advantage of refilleries and bulk stores in your community, ditch single-use materials, shop at thrift stores and opt for borrowing or lending items rather than purchasing. It will not only save money, but a lot of plastic and petroleum based materials.
- Reduce – Don’t buy items you don’t really need.
Does that household item really need to be replaced? Can it be repaired, cleaned or refinished instead? Can it be donated? Take old household goods in decent condition to a local donation centre. Or, sell at a garage sale or through online platforms
Reduce waste at the source: use your own reusable bags or containers where permitted. Avoid taking free giveaways that you don’t really need that you will just throw out. Avoid things like styrofoam cups, plates and containers that can’t be recycled in Halton’s blue bin program.
Be “waste conscious” at the point of purchase and make decisions accordingly. How will you dispose of that item or its packaging when done with it? Maybe there’s a better choice, or maybe you don’t really need it at all
Check out our ‘Should I Buy It?’ Guide to Mindful Consumption (PDF) – reflect on these questions before you purchase anything new. Print it and post it on your fridge!
- Reuse – Repurpose worn out items, shop for used goods, repair what you have and utilize reusable products.
Upcycling is a great way to give a new life to items we may otherwise not need. Upcycling involves adding value (in the eye of the beholder or the upcycler) to something that would otherwise have been thrown away. There are endless creative possibilities for HOW you can upcycle both common and uncommon household items – a simple google search is sure to inspire!
Repairing is also a fantastic way to maximize and extend the life of clothing, electronics, household items and more! Take these as learning opportunities to learn a new skill! Check out this Eco-Mending video to learn about simple mending skills for your clothes.
Did you know that the Halton Waste Management Site on RR#25 has a drop bin for natural wine corks, old eyeglasses, old/broken hockey sticks and aluminum crutches? They also have a container bin to drop your old wood (eg. furniture, lumber, etc.), plus clean drywall end-cuts (note: disposal fees are charged for these items; they repurpose the items for use at the landfill).
Halton Region has a comprehensive and manageable green cart collection program. You may also consider setting up your own backyard composter or even try vermicomposting too.
Are you using your blue & green bins properly to avoid contaminating the system? Some people think anything plastic or styrofoam can go in Halton’s blue bins – not true. Styrofoam is not permitted, and general plastic such as toys, hangers, bags, wrappers aren’t accepted either. See Halton’s Put Waste In Its Place search tool to review household items you may not be sure about.
Are you putting alcohol empties in your blue bin? Instead, take them back to the Beer Store for your refund. The Beer Store is a high-end recycler and your empties will often get recycled 17x more than in the blue bin. Did you know they also take back plastic 6-pack rings for recycling? Keep them out of the landfill and keep wildlife safe at the same time!
Did you know Terracycle has a cigarette butt recycling program? Are you a smoker or know someone who is? Save up those butts, along with any carton wrapping (foil wrappers, cellophane wrap) and send them to Terracycle to accumulate points. Points can be redeemed for gifts, or donated to a non-profit of your choice (such as BurlingtonGreen!). Help keep this toxic waste out of the landfill, and send it in to be processed and repurposed. Terracycle has several other free recycling programs to participate in. They also have zero waste boxes you can purchase to recycle other special items too.