Our planet is finite. Zero Waste means using less of our natural resources
Mine and extract fewer minerals and less oil and gas
Except for items made from recycled material, everything comes from something we have extracted. Even products made from plants require resources to “produce” those items.
Zero Waste strives to lower our extractive footprint in basic ways. Use less stuff, have less impact.
There are many corporations that promote recycling as the ultimate zero waste action. The challenge is that by recycling, say, a bottle, that bottle still required resources to be used. You can feel great about recycling, but not generating that waste in the first place is an even stronger zero waste action.
There are some products which can be recycled 1:1. For example, glass bottles can be melted down and reformed to create new glass bottles. The same is true for metal cans. These processes require a large amount of energy, however.
There are other products for which virgin (or raw) materials are needed. Paper fibers get shorter each time they are recycled. To create new paper, virgin fiber needs to be added into the mix. Plastic items also require virgin plastic polymers in order to re-manufacture the same item. This is because the fibers or the polymer chains get shorter when they get heated up or reprocessed.
Consider that it all adds up
Each little act of buying an item – like a coffee cup – may seem like it is not going to destroy the planet. The challenge is that in the US, we are major consumers. We use resources at a rate that is greater than most of the other populations of the world.
Each of us, striving to live with less impact, will make a difference. The people of the Pacific NW are leaders of the Zero Waste movement!