An ever-growing worldwide initiative, ‘zero waste’ aims to live up to its name, and take steps to reduce and eventually to get rid of the problem of waste. The plan is a complete overhaul of our current system to gradually get rid of landfills and incinerators and introduce processes where the by-products do not become useless and polluting and society as a whole takes responsibility for managing waste along ecological principals. More and more cities and communities around the world are putting policies in place that follow these principals.
Environmental groups call urban waste management one of societies "great hidden problems" because the average person is not aware of it. The most widespread practice is to deal with waste in landfills or burned in incinerators. The garbage disappears from view, but at the expense of the environment and the pocket of the taxpayers paying for these services. Far from diminishing, it is an ever-growing issue: the 2025 UN forecasts that we will generate five times more waste than current levels in developed countries.
The "zero waste" movement reminds us that in nature nothing is wasted, but is reused in a continuous cycle. They argue that trash is not an inevitable waste product that must be concealed, regardless of the environmental and economic consequences. Supporters stress the need to apply the classic three Rs of environmentalism: reduce, reuse and recycle and develop the practice of composting. Their ultimate goal is to change the current mode of production and that everyone involved, both businesses and consumers, take responsibility.
Companies need to change its production model. Under the principle of "Extended Producer Responsibility" (ERP), manufacturers undertake to care for the product, its packaging throughout their lifecycle. Consumer goods have to be designed and produced to generate the least possible environmental impact from the outset. If they fail, farmers have to bear the economic and environmental costs of collection and safe disposal. The priority must be to create sustainable production of versatile and durable, the use of non-toxic, biodegradable, recycled and recyclable, saving natural resources and energy or reduction of the polluting practices.
Employing this production system would allow consumers to go green. They would have to inform, raise awareness and reuse, recycle and properly composted and widespread. Institutions should ensure and facilitate the deployment of this system and ensure compliance. In fact zero waste practices can be implemented at any level, especially in local communities.
The followers of this movement include not only environmental benefits but also economic. Besides saving the cost of maintaining landfills and incinerators, recycling and composting systems allow local communities to generate significant revenues and jobs.
Zero waste in cities around the world
Proponents of the programs of "zero waste" take years of work and the fruits are starting to show. The Goldman prize, known as the Nobel of the environment, has been awarded this year to Yuyun Ismawati, BaliFokus organization. Jurors assessed her work to eliminate waste incineration and the implementation of such programs in Bali (Indonesia).
Cities and communities that apply the philosophy of "zero waste" are becoming more numerous. The Australian capital, Canberra, was the first in the world to implement legislation based on these ideas. In 1995, the objective was "no waste by 2010." The city of San Francisco (USA), with seven million people, took good example and implemented a system that achieved in ten years, reducing by 50% of their household waste. Currently, some 40 U.S. communities, some as important as Berkeley, New York or Seattle, also have a program of "zero waste."
Canada is another model: a score of places have taken these initiatives, including Ontario and Toronto, two of the largest cities in the country. Halifax is a case in point. Capital of Nova Scotia, a Canadian province of nearly a million people, has been reduced by 65% the amount of buried waste. To this end, in 1997 took an ambitious program that was able to recover and recycle waste million over five years. This practice generated a thousand new jobs.
In other Canadian city, Oakville, has been reduced by 50% the volume of waste. Citizens are required by law to compost their waste, using shredders in sinks or deliver clean and separate waste. The fines for those who do not take can become important.
New Zealand is the first country in the world to adopt plans for "zero waste" throughout the territory. The Zero Waste New Zealand Trust is an institution created specifically to achieve this goal.
As an important example of speaking city, Buenos Aires stands out. Those responsible adopted in 2005 a law banning the incineration, requires specific targets for reducing landfill and achieves the ultimate goal of zero waste in 2020.
Zero Waste International Alliance offers on its website a list of communities around the world who have created public policies for promoting similar to the previous practices. It contains several cities in the United Kingdom, Italy, South Africa, Japan or India, but no Spanish.
ALEX FERNANDEZ Muerza – www.consumer.es – Eroski
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