4 Tactics to Reduce Waste

Using these four simple tactics will help reduce the amount of waste in your home and in your community.

| April 2018

  • In the history of waste disposal, we have used three main methods: bury it, burn it, or dump it in the ocean, but none of these methods solves the growing burden our waste puts on the environment.
    Photo by Pixabay/Pexels
  • “The Zero Waste Solution” by Paul Connett compares different countries from every part of the world and their methods for disposing their waste.
    Photo courtesy of Chelsea Green Publishing

In The Zero Waste Solution (Chelsea Green, 2013), Paul Connett shows consumers across America that their community’s waste handling can be re-imagined to be more effective and kinder to the environment. Connett gives suggestions that the average consumer can use to lessen the amount of waste coming from their home. The following excerpt is his list of four methods to reduce waste in the community.

It may appear that zero waste is an idealistic goal, but we can approach this target with simple, practical, cost-effective, and politically acceptable steps in mind. In fact, many cities and towns around the world are taking these steps to get closer to—and hopefully eventually achieve—zero waste.

You’ll note that many of these steps stress community—another reminder that getting closer and closer to zero waste involves building both local and global communities in order to move toward the greater goal of sustainability.

Step 1: Source Separation

Waste is made by mixing discarded items. Waste is unmade (or rather not made in the first place) by keeping discarded materials separated into a few simple categories. While many communities in the United States recycle, the types of items collected at curbs are usually limited to three or four categories (see Step 2 below). However, in places where citizens deliver their discards (materials they no longer need) directly to drop-off recycling centers, the number of categories can be much higher. In one town in Japan, citizens separate into thirty-four different categories. Daniel Knapp of Urban Ore, a leading recycling venture in Berkeley, California, believes all discarded materials can be divided into twelve master categories, and he designs resource recovery parks in ways to receive and handle these categories. It all boils down to the simple fact that the more categories a community offers, the more waste its residents can recycle and the less material is wasted in processing.

Step 2: Door-to-Door Collection Systems

Door-to-door collection systems in towns that are serious about zero waste typically involve three or four color-coded containers or bags. Collection rates vary, as does the degree of curbside waste separation. San Francisco, for instance, does a once-a-week collection of three containers. Several cities in Italy and Spain use four or more containers, and some communities collect specific materials (using the same collection vehicles) on different days of the week to allow for greater source separation. Communities at the leading edge of door-to-door collection have been able to allow citizens to recycle over 80 percent of their discards, and some smaller communities over 90 percent.

Basically, in the more comprehensive door-to-door systems one container is used for kitchen waste, one or more for recyclables (an extra division can be made here between paper products and bottles and cans), and a third for the residual fraction. Being produced seasonally, garden debris is usually picked up less frequently. Some communities collect the kitchen and garden debris together, but this leads to the use of much larger containers—which in turn can influence the size and expense of the vehicles used for pickup. Most communities in North America, though, still lack door-to-door pickup of organics and kitchen waste.

2/26/2019 2:40:21 PM

It seems to escape the stream of thought in these discussion about waste, that waste quantifies unused resources. In a capitalist society that prides itself on efficiency and unit production, it would seem that waste would be as close to non-existent as possible. When waste is calculated into the equation, products cost more than they should. Thankfully we have the kind of society that allows free waste disposal in the form of air and water pollution. Consider waste to be a concept like weeds. What is a weed? A weed is something that you haven't found a use for. Yet?

10/19/2018 8:32:35 AM

FYI Recology sells its “clean” paper waste to China, and China is very picky as to what “clean” is. Recology also does not recycle many products that are recycled by other companies such as “Waste Management”. As a kid in the 50’s & 60’s in Los Angeles your garbage had to be sorted for pick up; glass sorted by color, newspaper and cardboard together ( not wet, and schools, churches and other would have paper drives ), cans and metals and lastly the basic household trash. Granted we had incinerators but they went away in the 50’s. Then along came plastic! and politics. So don’t sort, and throw away more stuff.



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