Unfortunately, waste is a big part of our everyday lives. So omnipresent that we often don’t notice it anymore. And let’s be honest, do we really care that much about it? Or does “out of sight, out of mind” describes our situation best? It’s not a secret that all the waste does not just dissolve when picked up by the nice men from the waste collection. There are toxic landfills, or some waste might be shipped far away to Africa and Asia, where people poison themselves just to get some of the valuable substances in it. We also know that a considerable amount of waste ends up in the oceans and landfills or indirectly on our plates. Nevertheless, we hardly waste a thought about those issues while (over)shopping, tearing packaging or throwing something in the bin.
Zero waste is not a new concept. Paul Parmer already used this concept in the 1970s for his effort to reduce chemical waste in the laboratory. And even though the context differed from today, zero waste was “successfully” lived by the people during the great depression.
Zero waste is a possibility to directly reduce our ecological footprint in the everyday life with immediate benefits for ourselves. Zero waste does not just mean avoiding waste but breaking free from consumerism. Basically, the movement wants you to rethink the throw-away mentality with its disposable packaging and let your goods enter the circular economy through reusing our valuable resources. Especially, plastic waste should be avoided, as it takes centuries to decompose and thus pollute the environment the most. In the end zero waste is the goal and it might be difficult to achieve depending on the exact definition of it. Zero shouldn’t sound scary to you. It should be a challenge for a better future and allow you to make better choices.
Our classmate Khushal Piracha at Antwerp Management School made sustainable living a top priority in his life. We have interviewed him to show that it only takes the right mindset and persistence to start making a difference.
AMS: How and when did you first hear about zero waste?
Khushal: I was already working on reducing plastic and food waste when I stumbled on a video on Facebook by Goodful (a page promoting healthy eating habits through recipes and tutorial videos on things like starting your own garden). It was a video about an employee trying to go zero waste for a month. It was so successful that she was able to only make a jar of total waste in a full month. It was mostly compromised of tags from clothes she bought or the small stickers on fruit at the supermarket.
AMS: Why and when did you decide to ‘start’ it for yourself?
Khushal: The changing climate is an issue that affects all of us and it is with a 100% certainty that it is being caused by us.
Although I haven’t begun my zero waste initiative yet, I’m taking baby steps like going a week without buying any plastic and shopping at the waste free store in Antwerp.
Any small part really matters so even if you only focus on yourself it will make a huge difference.
AMS: What did you reach so far and what are your future targets?
Khushal: So far I’ve learned how to make my own compost although that has been complicated in Antwerp while living in a student house. It’s something I intend to do for when I have a small garden.
Another target I have is to potentially start my own environmental initiative in my home city of Karachi, Pakistan. Karachi is at crossroads with their trash problem. Considering a city with almost 18 million inhabitants, I think an environmental initiative there would really benefit the city.
My final target is to be totally waste free by the end of 2020.
AMS: Do you try to convince people around you to follow your lead and if so how and does it work?
Khushal: There’s two ways: I either talk about my experiences or I try to shock people into realizing the impact of their actions.
Something as small as the lotus biscuits we have at AMS (Antwerp Management School). They’re delicious, but they’re also covered in non-recyclable plastic (or stray plastic). Even if anyone throws this plastic in recycling, it would be filtered out and actually end up in landfill. I refuse to eat them but I make people aware that they are creating waste by eating the biscuits. It may not always work but at least it makes people think.
AMS: One recommendation for our readers?
- A recommendation would first be to research on what’s recyclable and what’s not. It’s very easy to be “green washed” at the supermarket. Always read on company initiatives and try to support companies who invest in green projects.
- Support local companies and smaller businesses as they’re usually part of the local recycling network.
- Try to reuse before you recycle things. Things like glass bottles, glass jars, boxes, and even plastic bags. Use them as much as possible before you throw them into recycling.
Thank you Khushal for your time and interesting view on zero waste.
By Anabel Herzsprung and Antonia Brinker (firstname.lastname@example.org)