While recycling is a part of Zero Waste, it is not the goal. Instead, Zero Waste emphasizes the highest and best use of materials.
Zero Waste International Alliance (zwia.org) definition:
“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”
What’s wrong with landfilling?
Landfills are a top source of methane – a greenhouse gas 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period. Reduction of methane has more immediate impact on climate change and requires much smaller investments than CO2 reduction infrastructure.
Landfill gas volatile organic compounds and other hazardous air pollutants that can cause cancerous illnesses and a variety of health problems in humans, and create harmful ground level ozone.
As demand for resources increases and supply dwindles, we are spending more time and energy searching for resources, when their recovery could capture and repurpose them– all while creating 10x as many jobs as landfilling.
Landfill leachate can saturate and toxify soils in surrounding areas and flammable gas can leach through the soil and cause fires and explosions near landfills.