The climate crisis makes us question if we can achieve sustainability. Additionally, the pandemic has heightened awareness of climate change and environmental collapse. It has also led to an increase in disposable consumption, such as masks and gloves.
Moreover, our environment exhibits a surge in plastic consumption and waste. For instance, virtual market apps have become popular, resulting in more plastic bags replacing cloth bags.
So, what approach should we adopt to achieve a sustainable future?
How can we integrate existing approaches into our daily lives?
Approaches to waste management
There are two main approaches: “reduce, reuse, recycle” and “zero waste.”
The “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach, also known as the 3R hierarchy system, is a waste management system. On the other hand, zero waste is an approach introduced by chemist Paul Palmer around 50 years ago to minimize chemical waste in laboratories.1According to the zero waste approach, materials are continuously reused until their optimal point, creating a recurring redistribution mechanism within the system. Once materials can no longer be reused or repaired, they are recycled, and waste is recovered.2 In addition, the 5R (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recycle, Rot) hierarchy is adopted. It emphasizes refusal before reduction and considers recycling as a last resort.3 Food waste and organic waste are composted; composting is a recycling process that uses organic waste such as vegetables, fruit and eggshells as fertiliser.
The 3Rs and 5Rs are adopted worldwide. San Francisco’s waste management success inspires hope for a future with zero waste. In 2012, San Francisco diverted 80% of waste from landfills, and aims to reduce waste by 15% by 2030. Many people, including activists, are calling attention to the importance of individual waste management.
Challenges of zero waste
Many people are aware of the issue of waste, but it can be difficult to make changes in their own lives. Nevertheless, it is important to take action, even if it is small.