Zero waste: How to work towards a circular economy

zero waste

There is a lot of confusion about what zero waste is and how it differs from recycling. This is understandable, as the two concepts are often conflated. In this blog post, we try to clear up some of the misconceptions and answer questions like: “What is zero waste?” and “Is zero waste sustainable?”. Once you understand the basics, we’ll help you figure out which steps you can take in your own life to work towards being zero-waste!

What is Zero Waste and Why is it Important to the Future of our Economy?

Zero waste is a philosophy and lifestyle choice that aims to send nothing to landfills or incineration. It can be summed up by the following four R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle.

Zero waste is important because it is one of the key steps we can take as a society to move towards a circular economy. A circular economy is one in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them while they are in use, and then recycle or compost them at the end of their life.

This is a radical departure from our current linear economy, which is based on the idea of “take-make-dispose”. In a linear economy, materials are extracted, used and disposed of in a very short amount of time. This is why we have an ever-expanding mountain of rubbish!

We need to move towards a circular economy model where products are designed for recycling or composting at the end of their life instead. Zero waste is one way that we, as individuals, can contribute to the transition by reducing the amount of waste we produce.

circular economy diagram
Circular economy diagram from Ellen Macarthur Foundation

How does zero-waste contribute to the circular economy?

In brief, a circular economy is one in which raw materials are recognised as finite resources so we have to ensure that we have regenerating natural systems. So, everything from design, manufacturing, the products and materials, the supply chains and waste management are all part of a circular economy. The aim is to minimise our environmental impact by designing products, packaging and materials that allow consumption, reuse and recovery of resources. The circular economy concept also relies on renewable energy.

Zero waste is important because it helps to keep resources in use for as long as possible. When we recycle or compost materials, we are keeping them out of the landfill and preventing them from becoming waste. This is key to moving towards a circular economy, where products are designed for recycling or composting at the end of their life.

In addition to reducing waste, zero waste can also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is released when materials are sent to the landfill. By preventing materials from becoming waste, we can reduce the amount of methane that is released into the atmosphere.

Using fewer natural resources


Another important factor to consider when looking at the circular economy is natural resources. We need to use fewer resources if we want to maintain a healthy planet for future generations. Zero waste is one way that individuals can reduce their reliance on virgin materials and help to move towards a more sustainable economy. Businesses that use circular systems and focus on resource efficiency will ultimately have a competitive advantage over businesses that have poor waste management systems.

What is the Difference between Zero Waste and Recycling?

The main difference between zero waste and recycling is that recycling is a process while zero waste is a philosophy. Recycling is the act of taking materials that would otherwise be thrown away and turning them into new products. This can be done at home (e.g., composting and recycling) or through industrial processes (such as resource recovery).

Zero waste is a lifestyle choice that seeks to reduce the number of resources we consume in general, so it is broader than just recycling. The zero-waste movement is part of a larger set of social movements working towards sustainability by reducing our impact on the planet. The aim is to preserve our natural capital and make sure it is used in a sustainable way.

What are the 5 principles of zero waste?

The zero-waste movement is based on five guiding principles. These are often summarized as the “four R’s plus one”:

  • Refuse what you do not need
  • Reduce what you consume
  • Reuse items whenever possible
  • Recycle whatever is left
  • Compost your food scraps and other compostable material

What is a good example of how people can work towards being zero waste?

A good example of how people can work towards being zero waste is the city of San Francisco. In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in North America to adopt a comprehensive zero-waste policy. This means that all city residents and businesses are required to recycle and compost their waste. The city also set a goal to send zero waste to landfills or incinerators.

The city implemented a number of initiatives to help residents and businesses reduce their waste. These include mandatory composting and recycling, a ban on Styrofoam food containers, and the promotion of reusable products.

How Can I Achieve Zero Waste in My Own Life?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as everyone’s lifestyle is different. However, there are a few basic steps that everyone can take:

– Refuse what you don’t need: This is the first and most important step in reducing waste. Refuse products that are over-packaged, or that you don’t need.

– Reduce consumption: This is especially important for materials that have a high environmental impact, like plastics. Try to buy products made from sustainable materials.

– Reuse what you can: There are many ways to reuse everyday items, like using cloth bags instead of plastic ones.

– Recycle what is left: Even if you have done all the steps above, there will still be some waste that is recyclable. This is where recycling comes in! Look up your local guidelines for how to recycle different materials and send them off properly when possible. If this isn’t possible, compost them instead.

-Buy products made from sustainable materials like bamboo or glass instead

Eliminate waste to get rid of pollution

The environmental benefits of implementing a zero-waste lifestyle are huge. By reducing the number of resources we use, and making sure that they don’t become waste in the first place, we can significantly reduce our impact on the environment. This will help to protect our precious resources and ensure a clean, healthy environment for future generations.

So is zero waste sustainable? The short answer is yes! You can read more about circular economy principles on the Ellen Macarthur Foundation website.

Did you know we have an Earth overshoot day?

The UK’s Earth Overshoot Day is 19th May

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year”. By moving towards zero waste behaviours, we make the planet more sustainable as we re-use resources already being used.

There is a lot of work to be done in order to move our economy towards a circular model, but every little bit helps! Zero waste is one way that we can all take action and make a difference. So what are you waiting for? Start reducing your waste today!