Jan 15, 2018

Zero Waste and Green Environment Trends


Although awareness about waste management has gone up in the past several decades, this awareness has so far done next to nothing when it comes to actually controlling the mammoth problem of waste!

1.3 billion tonnes of waste are being produced globally, every year. This statistic is only set to rise by the year 2025, to the whopping figure of 2.2 billion tonnes per year. With the drastic level of waste being produced, drastic measures to control it are also called for.

The three Rs of waste management is a mantra that has been around for a very long time: ‘Reduce’, ‘Reuse’ and ‘Recycle’. When it comes recycling, although the targets that recycling should achieve in order to achieve the target are still far below acceptable, it is still one of the most well-known, worked towards and publicized modes of waste management.

It has somehow become a convenient way for people to get rid of things by putting them in the recycle bin and feel like they have done their bit towards waste management.

Unfortunately, recycling simply passes the responsibility of managing your waste to someone else, and this doesn’t always pay. Many high-profile cases involving recycle companies have proved that even recycling is considered merely a business.


Where people have paid a lot of attention to ‘Recycle’, ‘Reuse’ and ‘Reduce’ have sadly not taken off as efficiently. Where ‘Recycle’ involves several agencies to step in and take care of the recycling process, ‘Reuse’ and ‘Reduce’ depend on the civic sense of the individual alone. Reusing things instead of buying new ones and throwing the old in the bin, or just reducing the amount you consume, depends entirely on the person or family.

In addition, while you can reuse or recycle after making a purchase decision, reducing consumption is a way of life. It is not about the management of waste, but about how to prevent the creation of waste in the first place.


Zero Waste is a concept based entirely on ‘Reduce’. It can be described as a philosophy where individuals alter their lifestyle to generate almost zero waste. More and more people are taking on this challenge, proving to the world that it is a goal that can be achieved.

Since Zero Waste is a bottom-up strategy, there are many things that can be achieved on a personal or a local level. Just by following the simple steps listed below, some people have managed to reduce their waste generation to less than a jarful per year!

1.  Buy in bulk

Since packaging creates the most amount of waste, it makes sense to cut down on the waste production by buying things in bulk and storing them in your house. It is more economical, and eco-friendly too.

2.  Buy local

Buy products and produce that are locally available or are made or grown near where you live. Moving things from place to place and even manufacturing things that need raw materials to be gathered from around the world results in waste left at every stage and a much larger carbon footprint.

3.  Share

Unlike the other steps, this is not individualistic but requires communities to come together. Instead of hoarding things that you might need at some point, try establishing community banks where you can store tools, old cell phones, extra furniture, and anything else that might be useful. Not only is it good for the environment, it is more economical and also inculcates a feeling of unity in the community.


4.  Compost

This is the simplest and most efficient thing that you can do to improve your household’s carbon footprint. Kitchen wastes can directly be used as fuel for your kitchen garden, and the produce of fruits and vegetables can then be used to cook food. It comes a full circle with compost!

5.  Make it yourself

A slightly more complex way to bypass the packaging is by making things yourself. A New Yorker solved the problem of waste generation by making her own household cleaning products instead of buying them every few weeks. Not only did it cut down on the waste generation, but it also removed harmful pollutants from her cleaning process.



Zero Waste in Asia

Many communities and individuals are steadily moving towards a zero waste goal. Some noteworthy examples in Asia are:

1.  Japan

A small town by the name of Kamikatsu in Japan gathered international attention by almost achieving the Zero Waste target. The Kamikatsu model involves people of the town diligently sorting their waste into 45 categories, separating bottle caps and paper labels as they go. A city-wide composting system is also in place, and in order to reduce wastage even further, people don’t throw away unwanted things but give them to a special shop set up for the purpose. You can drop off stuff and take anything you want. For free!

2.  Malaysia

Malaysia has successfully implemented an ambitious zero waste plan in Auto City. Located in mainland Penang, it is a busy commercial hub. Everything from dining, entertainment and retail is based in the 8+ hectares of land. But over the span of around two years, over forty restaurants have agreed to participate in sending their food waste to the composters. The system has been so effective that the Auto City’s landfills are down to a bare minimum!


3.  Hong Kong

While Hong Kongers don’t take recycling and waste reduction very seriously as a general rule, there are positive signs. For instance, Christian Mongendre, the CEO of HOME – Eat to Live, is one of the flagbearers of the zero waste movement in Hong Kong. She works towards zero waste by sourcing local produce, using recyclable and compostable packaging, water filters instead of water bottles, and many other small steps. Hannah Chung, who posts on Instagram under the handle of The Zero Waste Challenge, recently struggled through a week using the bare minimum of plastic on a daily basis – a challenge recorded by the South China Morning Post.


There are many more stories like those of Christian and Hannah throughout Hong Kong and even the world. These stories provide hope and set a role model for the rest to follow. So let’s work together for a cleaner future. The most pressing need of the moment!



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