It has never been more important to imagine a better future for our world. In the face of so many serious environmental problems, we need much more than just awareness of what is wrong. The world needs ideas on how things can be done better and more sustainably while providing a high quality of life for humans everywhere.
If everyone committed to a waste-free lifestyle today, where would we be in 10 years? Join us as we look at six visions of a waste-free future that will give you hope, inspiration and motivation to be the change you want to see!
1. All waste will be disposed of through recycling or composting rather than landfill.
A key component of the zero waste philosophy is a circular economy that recovers all of its waste. That means a commitment to convert all of our full trash bags into recycling bags filled with material on its way to becoming new products, or compostable trash bags for our table scraps and yard waste.
It will also be important to transform the materials used for everyday essentials. Certain materials that are difficult to recycle, such as Styrofoam, could be banned in the future. Meanwhile, we could see biodegradable items or reusable items, such as wooden toothbrushes and metal drinking straws, become commonplace.
2. Electric vehicles will be everywhere and more sustainable.
Carbon emissions are one of the most harmful forms of waste, and the coming transition to electric vehicles (EVs) offers a great opportunity to reduce them. That alone, however, will not be enough. A zero-waste society will need to fully decarbonize its electricity grid to ensure that EVs are charged with renewable energy. In addition, the electric vehicle industry will need to develop new recycling techniques for electric vehicle batteries.
The road to full electrification of vehicles is already well underway. Automakers around the world have announced major commitments to EV technology, and large companies such as Amazon and FedEx are working to electrify their fleets. the explosive growth of the wind and solar power industries is likely to continue, so a zero-waste grid is not as far away as it might seem.
3. Alternative transportation methods such as bicycles and public transportation will play a much larger role.
In densely developed areas, expanded public transport and bicycle infrastructure can play as important a role as electric vehicles. These lower or zero-carbon transportation alternatives can move people more efficiently in cities than personal electric vehicles, which also helps eliminate another type of waste: time wasted in traffic !
Both systems require investment to reach their potential. A zero waste society would need safe and convenient cycling routes to allow people to reach their destinations without fear of motor vehicles. It would also need public transportation such as trains and/or buses that are convenient for commuters’ schedules. Long-term investments in these areas would pay off in the form of more pleasant and less polluted cities.
4. Fresh seasonal produce will be available through technology that connects consumers directly with local farmers.
The local food movement has already been gaining momentum, but it could go to the next level if there were better platforms to connect consumers directly with farmers. Apps could remind consumers about nearby farmers’ markets and allow them to place orders for pickup, or even offer fresh produce for delivery via bike couriers or electric vehicles.
These tools would make it easier for farmers to sell their produce more profitably directly to consumers, which would also encourage new farmers to enter the market. Municipal composting programs could then collect food scraps from consumers’ kitchens and offer them to farmers, creating the circular economy that is such a crucial element of zero waste systems.
5. Restaurants will offer take-out and delivery food in reusable or compostable containers.
We can get rid of single-use plastic containers without giving up the takeout food we love! In fact, some restaurants are already embracing reusable containers , and reusable and compostable food containers are widely available. It’s a matter of figuring out the logistics and creating incentives to encourage restaurants to switch.
For example, we could have apps similar to GrubHub that only deliver in reusable containers and have couriers pick up the containers from containers outside consumers’ homes. Or, restaurants could receive a tax break to offset the cost of switching to compostable containers – for takeout, consumers can bring their own containers to reuse over and over again!
6. Refillable and do-it-yourself consumer products will become much more common.
Household products, from kitchen cleaners to shampoo, are another major source of single-use packaging waste. In a zero-waste future, we could see the development of numerous new forms for products that eliminate packaging waste and give consumers only what they need.
Some hair care companies, for example, now offer their shampoo products in bar form instead of liquid, which greatly reduces the packaging required. Other companies offer cleaning products in reusable containers. The customer buys a reusable glass container and then buys refills from the company when more are needed.
As public awareness of plastic waste grows, we expect to see even more companies developing these innovative business models. All successful green alternatives show consumers that living with zero waste is not as difficult as it seems. In fact, it can significantly improve their quality of life!
None of the proposals we have discussed here are simple. Each is possible with the technology we have today, or with the advances of a few more years. The key element will be the willpower, of the public, governments and businesses, to turn dreams into reality!