What is Zero Waste Management?

The term zero waste management is cropping up more frequently. Many local and state governments as well as businesses commonly use the phrase.

Although it sounds like something that would be beneficial, many people are unsure of what zero waste management really is. Business owners in particular want to know what it means to them.

Defined

Zero waste management is an alternative to the current widespread practice of disposing of waste by burying it in landfills or burning it in incinerators. The philosophy behind zero waste management is to encourage new ways of doing things that incorporate reusing all products.

The term surfaced in the 1970s. Its goal is to conserve resources and eliminate the discharge of toxic materials into the water, air, or land that are harmful to human, animal or plant health. Although it sounds like recycling, it is more than that. Zero waste management goes beyond merely maximizing recycling while minimizing waste. It also focuses on decreasing consumption and making sure that products are purposefully designed to be reusable, repairable or recyclable. In addition, recyclable means it goes either back into the environment or into another product.

Background

Consumers are increasingly concerned with the environment and the impact their activities have on it. That interest extends to the businesses from which they buy goods and services.

Concerns over waste have intensified as the world population has doubled in the past 40 years. It now stands at more than 7 billion and growing. Although the United States only has 5 percent of the world population, it accounts for 42 percent of all the harmful greenhouse gases emitted into the environment. Moreover, if the rest of the world consumed natural resources at the same pace it would take five planets like ours to keep up with demand. So finding ways to reuse resources makes sense.

Function

Implementing zero waste management begins with creating a new system or way of doing things. It involves redesigning systems for the use of resources that begin with product design and extend to the eventual disposal of that product when it reaches the end of its useful life.

However, businesses and consumers cannot fully implement zero waste policies alone. Government must implement new policies and rules to govern the use of shrinking natural resources. Manufacturers must design products that are environmentally friendly rather than merely disposable. Municipalities must change from disposal in landfills and incinerators to an infrastructure that recovers and recycles 90 percent of discarded items to make new products, instead of using new natural resources.

zero waste management

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/walmartcorporate/5390928907/

Benefits

Capturing discarded items and using them to create new products does more than conserve dwindling natural resources. It also benefits local economies. Often, the natural resources used to create new products come from another country. Purchasing products made with them means transferring money out of the local economy. However, recovering the materials in discarded items and using it to create new products keeps some money there and benefits the local economy. That is true even if the recovered resources are sold to a manufacturer located outside the area.

Article by Jet Russell. Jet is a freelance writer and spends a lot of his time contributing to the blogsphere. You can find him writing on an array of different topics.

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