In today’s world, garbage is anywhere and can be found easily with our naked eyes. Pollution due to garbage is a very serious problem all the world over. Years ago before, Manila Bay is full of garbage and there is no way for you to see a clean and non-stinky bay. But, after many years have passed, some persons were assigned to focus on cleaning it and try as much as possible to make it a zero-waste bay.
In other places, people who live near rivers are suffering from dengue and other harmful diseases due to an unpleasant surrounding full of wastes that are coming from them and it is an unsolved problem since then. But there are places that remained zero waste. There are zero waste communities, even if it seemed to be impossible in our wasteful world taken for granted by many people.
The leaders of zero waste communities and the zero waste movement are living a realization on humans that we all can do have our own ability to protect our environment. Also, they want us to be awake and learn that it is not impossible to still prosper without damaging our environment from different kinds of pollution.
Zero waste communities may seem like a far-off utopia in our wasteful world. But they are real and rising in number all over the world.
It is so admirable to see and notice such communities that give attention on the surrounding to be clean and give their best to make their place nice and clean. It is such a great idea that can make someone say “I hope all communities are like theirs”.
Through communal efforts in the international zero waste movement and coordination with governments, communities are already going zero waste with efficiency. From California to Japan and beyond, people have learned to live with little to no waste and maximizing their resources for the common good. By breaking free from the burden of waste pollution, these zero waste communities show that you can prosper and take care of the environment at the same time.
You don’t have to say those words above if you just want it to happen in your community. You can embolden your own community to go zero waste, too! Get inspired by continue reading to change your neighborhood for the better with this guide on zero waste communities.
What is Zero Waste Community?
We are all aiming for change; all of us want a safe and healthy environment. All of us want to live longer while we are living; all of us want to breathe fresh air, all of us are afraid of disasters like floods. To achieve these things, we should start the change within ourselves. We need to educate ourselves and encourage ourselves to change our bad habits and start living in a life where we can help our environment.
According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, “Zero waste is a stepping-stone for change”. Through a zero-waste lifestyle, we can conserve and protect our environment from wastefulness. It is also a way on how we can make our environment clean and safe for us to live. Going zero waste can help the community become cleaner and pleasing to live in. With a clean environment, we can live longer, we can inhale clean air and we can prevent different disasters like floods.
There are three (3) things on how we can determine a Zero Waste community. These are:
- implementation of proper segregation of waste into different categories;
- knowledge and understanding of how to recycle and reuse the materials and products after their life span;
- the whole community cares for the environment and for their own health.
A zero waste community knows proper segregation of waste into different categories
A zero-waste community knows the proper segregation of the garbage in their area. They should have their trashcan in the community that has a label which items can be reused, recycled, or discarded to landfills. A community that knows how to segregate waste has a high chance to go towards zero waste. Additionally, a zero-waste community can use or sell the discarded products to be reused and recycled by other people. These include things like clothes, toys, building materials, and furniture.
Some zero waste communities even have centers and stores for these second-hand items to be sold at a lower price. Additionally, those zero waste communities like Davao City are strict with their rules. Nobody attempts to smoke in a non-designate area for smokers, no one dares to throw their trashes anywhere, or else they violate the rule and face the consequence. When you to a place like Davao City, you will be amazed at how clean the streets are.
A zero waste community knows how to recycle and reuse things
A zero Waste Community knows how to reuse things that cannot be damaged in just one use like cellophane and other plastic things like tinsel garland, unreal Christmas tree, and other ornaments. The zero-waste community also knows how to reduce waste, instead of buying plastics things, people would look for some alternative.
An example is in the market. Instead of tolerating people who use plastic cellophane, they would have an agreement in their community that cloth bags will be used, and instead of using cellophane for food, they will be using paper bags or the leaf of Banana.
Lastly, the zero-waste community knows how to recycle things. Instead of throwing plastics everywhere, people would tend to make it as an ornament. We use different products in our life and it is part of our daily routine.
The problem is people directly throw these products after using them or if they have exhausted their lifecycle and this simple act of disposal can greatly harm the environment. The community needs to be aware that to protect our environment, they should know how to reuse and recycle materials efficiently and get support for this from their governments.
All establishments should offer reusable bags and require their consumers to bring their reusable bags and containers to prevent the disposal of plastics to the land and water which damages our environment. Otherwise, we are risking our health.
The whole community cares for the environment and for their own health.
A Zero Waste community cares for the environment and their health. All of us want to live longer and be healthy. But, how can we be healthy and live longer if the place where we live is not safe for us? It is not safe for our health and it is not safe when disaster comes and it is even more tragic when it comes from something we can have prevented.
If not managed efficiently, waste can contribute to both pollution and disease spreading. Risks include respiratory and digestive diseases from the air, water, and soil pollution. Many have already died all over the world because their communities have not transitioned into zero-waste communities.
Many children and even infants get diagnosed and killed by dengue which is coming from unclean surroundings. Also, when a flood arises, there is a big risk to have fungus and other skin diseases that are caused by dirt or germs that are coming from the water that touches our skin.
Why should zero waste be a priority for communities and governments?
If we will continue to have bad solid waste management, there will be an increase in pollution and diseases such as diarrhea, asthma, dengue fever, and cancer.
Also, without proper zero waste management, our environment will be severely degraded. For instance, it can cause floods and sinking lands. Case in point, for the past years, Malabon experienced massive floods during the rainy season or even when heavy rain suddenly occurs, because of the waste that blocks their drainages. This happened because the community does not segregate their wastes properly.
It is really important that the community and government should start to prioritize zero waste to avoid these health and environmental issues. By becoming zero waste communities, it helps us to protect our health from different health issues like dengue fever, asthma and diarrhea, at the same time as our protection of the environment.
Additionally, going zero waste helps the community preserve its resources, financial, natural and human. We master how to conserve materials and products without burning them, throwing them to landfills, or discharging waste into the land, air, and water. All in all, prioritizing a zero waste lifestyle will benefit the whole community.
How does a community become zero waste?
A community becomes zero waste in different ways. Some communities implemented rules and regulations on how to segregate waste according to categories like reuse, recyclable, and also on how to collect waste in their community. In this way, the government officials are able to determine what should be recycled and reuse and what should be discarded. Many zero waste communities started this kind of practice and currently, they are still in the process of going towards zero waste.
On the other hand, there are some zero waste communities that opened centers or establishments where they sell secondhand products and materials like clothing, toys, appliances, gifts, furniture, and other building materials. People from the community can drop off their unused products and materials to those centers and establishments and the centers can sell them to other people at a low or discounted price.
Other places opened malls and stores for secondhand products. These malls, centers, and other establishments that sell secondhand items really help their community and environment to go zero waste because they are able to reuse and recycle their materials and products. They efficiently reduce the discarded materials and manage waste disposal.
Zero waste communities around the world
Worldwide, from Europe to Asia and beyond, people have banded together and with the help of NGOs and governments, made their neighborhoods manage waste better. Here are some zero waste communities which show that caring for the environment is as important as preserving their community.
San Francisco, California
The pioneer of zero waste in the cities of America, San Francisco spent 19 years to make it a 100% zero waste area. The city almost reached his goal diverting 80% of its waste away from the landfill in 2012.
Ann Arbor, Detroit
Ann Arbor, a city in Detroit, operates at a 50% material recovery rate with a curbside recycling program. Although this city still relies on a large and polluting municipal incinerator, Zero Waste Detroit helps develop a new business model for waste, one that stops incineration, and emphasizes recycling instead.
Capannori, Tuscany, Italy
The town council of Capannori was the first in Europe to sign up to the Zero Waste strategy in 2007, committing to send zero waste to landfills by 2020. Capannori is now truly leading in the area of waste prevention since the pay-as-you-throw scheme has been adopted by all municipalities. The overall volume of waste generated per person dropped from 192 kg to 118 kg / person / year between 2004 and 2013.
Since 1995, Kamikatsu residents have composting systems in their homes. Then their waste collection center, the Hibigatani Waste and Resource Station, evolved into a circular or kuru-kuru shop where locals dropped items they no longer needed and take away any of the items that were also dropped off there for free.
In 2016, Kamikatsu also developed a ‘Zero Waste Accreditation System’ to further control waste generation. This system certifies stores, particularly food and beverage establishments, to heighten zero waste consciousness and encourages customers to reward certified businesses with their patronage.
Seoul, South Korea
On the other hand, similar to Malabon and Tacloban, Seoul, South Korea also goes to zero waste and they are entitled to be best on recycling because they segregate their waste according to categories – landfill, recycling, composting, and incineration. With this, they are able to identify which items or materials can be recycled, composted, incinerated, or go to landills.
This capital city of Kerala, under its municipal corporation called the TMC, introduced a segregated collection of waste to ensure maximum efficiency. It formalized and institutionalized source-level composting and decentralized resource recovery as part of city waste management.
The entire process of waste management in the city now is based on the principle of proximity which ensures the least amount of displacement of waste. Bulk generators or commercial establishments, meanwhile, are required to take responsibility for their own waste.
Alaminos City, Philippines
Villages, local officials, and non-profit organizations such as GAIA worked together to create composting systems and sorting facilities. As a result, there is almost no more open burning and dumping in this Philippine city.
Another zero waste city in the Philippines is Malabon. It suffers massive floods during rainy seasons or even it’s not a rainy season. It challenges the city to have a giant task that deals with their daily wastes. Fortunately, Potrero, the largest and most popular barangay, has 54,000 residents that were able to switch to a zero waste management system. This efficiently reduced floods and disease cases such as leptospirosis.
This city has two Zero Waste Management Projects. When you try to roam around the City, there is nowhere for you to see garbage on the street. Also, smokers do not smoke anywhere as they might get arrested or they might be paying for violating such rule.
How can you make your community zero waste?
Given the many benefits zero waste communities mentioned above experience because of their sustainable waste management practices, it makes absolute sense for every community to strive to become zero waste. It is difficult but perfectly doable.
To take your community to go toward Zero Waste, your community should have a well-communicated goal so that everyone will have the same perspective on what to aim.
Your community also needs to have a well-planned strategy, tools, and resources to make Zero waste possible. Without this, the community will struggle to achieve your goals. Lastly, community engagement is a must. Everyone from the mayor to the children in every household should be committed to the zero waste community mission.
However, the governments should also educate the community about the advantage and disadvantages of zero waste. This way, the community will be aware of what should they do to achieve zero waste in their community. The government can make rules, regulations, and other strategies to go zero waste.
They can make laws and strict policies to segregate their waste according to different categories, ban plastics and incentivize reusing and recycling materials, including giving discounts for shopping with reusable bags and containers. There should be clear and strict implementation so that the community can minimize the disposal of other harmful materials and products and the community can avoid destroying the land, air, and water. Implementation should include checking on the zero waste communities and their progress.
The government should also consider the different establishments and factories that are producing these products and materials. The factories should also be educated about zero waste. They should also be responsible for the materials, products, and packaging that they processing. These factories should consider that their product and packaging can be reused and recycled so that it would be easier to establish zero waste communities.
All in all, we need to get inspired by the example of Kamikatsu, Seoul, Malabon, Tacloban, Capannori, and other zero waste communities. We need to push for our communities to become zero waste for the sake of our health and environmental protection. It is only by becoming zero waste communities that people all over the world can change the world for the better, from the people to the government.
A community can be zero waste if people are just willing to make a change. Everyone has the ability to do it, the only problem is the supervision from time to time to keep things happen just like the first day you decided to make your community a safe place for everybody.
Doing this would not harm us, instead, it will help us live comfortably with less risk from pollution-induced diseases. The garbage that we throw anywhere emits toxic substances that can damage our land, air, and waterways.
There are a lot of ways to make our community waste-free. We should come to our senses that what we are doing to our environment might go back to us in the future. The garbage that we throw anywhere could block the canals and it might be a cause for a flood. This is just an example that we should never forget. It is better to take an action than regret in tears in the upcoming years when Mother Nature will be the one to attack us.