Living a Zero Waste lifestyle is more important than ever. With global warming knocking on the door and fueling the natural catastrophes in recent years — we need to act.
We need to close our eyes to consumerism and ignore the deceitful propaganda that attempts to convince us that more is better. More clothes. Technology. Food. Recycling. More of everything. We know the solution isn’t found in materialism.
With the current state of affairs, we must minimize waste.
However, I know from experience that’s not an easy thing to do.
It takes planning, discipline, and a willingness to learn.
Thank you for giving the zero waste lifestyle a try. In this guide, I’m going to show you how living zero waste is possible FOR everyone. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’m also doing my best to minimize waste, and I’ve educated myself on the subject.
Hopefully, I can lay it down in a simple, easy to understand fashion. You’re probably vegan like me, and this just takes veganism one step further by minimizing waste!
Why A Zero Waste Lifestyle?
The regular American produces three pounds of landfill-bound trash a day.
When you multiply that number for 300 million, the truth becomes harsh.
What’s the health and environmental impact? Before we dig into the zero waste tactics, let’s first learn about the danger landfill represents to our planet… and health.
There are several landfill misconceptions I’ve learned about, and I believe putting that into perspective will help most people realize the severity of creating more waste.
For instance —do you think an apple is fully biodegradable when thrown into the landfill? Is plastic recyclable? Let’s start that conversation.
You’re free to jump ahead, but understanding how trash works can equip you with some pretty wise comebacks when someone critics your decision to go waste-free. 🙂
The Landfill Nightmare
A landfill is essentially a huge pit in the ground covered with a plastic liner that serves to protect the land from being polluted by the contents of the landfill.
This being said, the pile of trash called ‘landfill’ still produces a toxic, stinky liquid that poses a threat to our environment. This liquid is called leachate. It’s a mixture of rain, liquified food, and household chemicals spilled from containers. Leachate is hazardous, and in spite of the existing filtration system designed to keep leachate from seeping into the ground, leachate still manages to flood off into the surrounding ground and waterways.
Concentrating a pile of trash in one place also leads to another problem.
Methane gas production. And unfortunately, methane gas is one of the most potent greenhouse gases on our planet. A gas that prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere, leading to increased temperatures or global warming. Currently, landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions, with the first being animal agriculture.
The General Misconception
There’s a huge misconception among the general pop about landfills.
Most people believe the landfill is this one place where you send all the trash to, and as a result, it magically biodegrades… and disappears.
Unfortunately, landfills don’t work like that.
As you know, every sort of crap is sent to the landfill. From leftovers to banana peels, batteries and even household chemicals. And it’s a repeatable process until more trash is dumped on top of the trash until the former loses exposure to sunlight and oxygen.
Organic waste decomposes when broken down by other living organisms like fungi, bacteria, and other microbes. Yet, that can happen in two ways: aerobically (with oxygen), or anaerobically (without oxygen). Substances break down much quicker under aerobic conditions because the oxygen helps break down the molecules.
As a result, the trash that is buried underneath other trash degrades very slowly. In addition to that, because most trash is in a sealed, oxygen-free environment, the bacteria in the waste produces methane gas.
A team of garbologists found that, even after 20 years, one third to one-half of the food and yard waste was still in recognizable condition.
The idea that landfill is this sort of magical black hole is delusional.
I’m by no means implying that biodegradation doesn’t occur since leachate and methane are byproducts of decomposition…
… but easy compostable things like food and paper go to waste because they are buried deep rather than being converted into nutrients that could return to the soil.
Is Biodegradation In The Landfill Any Good?
Biodegradation in the landfill may not be a good thing.
The number of hazardous materials (insecticides, oven cleaners, nail polish, window spray cleaner) you can find in a trash bin is surprising.
When in the landfill, their containers are often broken, and end up mixed with different waste, creating a toxic goo that spreads throughout the landfill. For that reason —Garbologists worry that allowing these chemicals to seep into the ground may be harmful to the environment.
Outside The Landfill
Waste happens everywhere. Inside the landfill where organic scraps are wasted. As well as in places where trash bins are in plain sight.
Here’s a view off my apartment ( even when two trash bins are located 3 meters away):
Litter found is eventually absorbed by the environment. Some of it ends up tangled in trees, and some are swept by storms before ending up in a creek or river. Something organic like an apple may decompose, but the majority of litter is made from stuff that doesn’t biodegrade. Plastic is a good example.
The Most Dangerous Form Of Waste
Plastic represents 90% of all marine litter. And unlike apples, plastic photodegrades.
This is a process where plastic is broken down into tiny particles called microplastics. These tiny particles are then ingested by fish before entering people’s food chain.
The danger, however, lies in bioaccumulation — a process in which you absorb a toxic chemical faster than your body can expel it.
On top of that, plastic is not only a threat to us… but It’s also a threat to marine life.
- Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals die every year.
- While 100,000 to 1,000,000 seabird deaths are attributed to trash.
Land animals are also at risk.
Raccoons, for example, have been found with their paws stuck on pop cans.
If we don’t reduce the amount of waste we make, we can’t expect the landfill (or our planet), to magically evaporate that waste.
Therefore, let’s start with the first step to a zero-waste lifestyle.