3 Ways for a World Without Waste

Can you imagine a world without waste?
We can!

Believe it or not, Canada currently produces more waste per capita than any other country (CBC). Our landfills are brimming, our climate is changing and we are wasting resources in the process.

This revelation came up at the Zero Waste Conference (#zwc2014) on Sept 16th and made it even more relevant that the conference is held in Canada, where we stand the most to gain by changing our relationship with waste. This was our second year attending the Zero Waste Conference, and we loved the growth from last year’s question:

What would a world without waste look like, and how do we get there?

To what felt like this year’s statement:

A world without waste is achievable, and here are some ways to do it.

The diagram below appeared many times during the day, and is a great snapshot of what is called a ‘circular economy’.

Butterfly Image of the Circular Economy

The central line shows what our present-day is most like – raw material extraction and use leads to landfill or incineration. The “butterfly wings” show what a waste-free economy looks like – after use, products become nutrients for a new manufacturing cycle. You can see why it’s called circular!

This year’s conference presented great solutions – ideological and on-the-ground – to making this circular economy a reality.

    Steps Towards a Circular Economy:

1) For businesses: Design for disassembly – through careful design, everything we produce could be unmade, then remade into something else (see Joseph Chiodo’s work). We love this, since compostable packaging is rooted in disassembly – by nature! What better way to dispose of food-soiled, bio-based and compostable materials than putting them back into the earth, where they can feed a new stage of bio-based design and production? The key to making a product able to disassemble is collaboration in design, bringing everyone in the supply chain together to ensure the product disassembles after use, BEFORE making it – in our case, making sure compost facilities will take our products!

A great resource for making products sustainable by design is the Cradle to Cradle education portal.

2) For consumers: Be an advocate – vote with your wallet! In this day and age the power is in the consumer’s hands, which means if you don’t like how something is made, or it has no end-of-life solution, you can choose a sustainable alternative, some of which were featured at the conference. Don’t think there is one? Ask! Businesses invest in studies to find out what consumers are thinking, why not just tell them?

This includes telling your favourite restaurant that you love their food, but don’t want the styrofoam!

3) For everyone: Keep it out of the landfill. Although landfill ‘mining’ gets some press (trying to find usable resources in old landfills), landfills are essentially a dead-end, and incineration even more so! Pay attention to what you buy and where it can go after use, then follow up with great recycling and organics collection. The conference featured businesses like MBA Polymers and the Plastic Bank that work to keep plastics in a technical nutrient cycle, and out of landfill.

We’re proud that our CEO founded BSI 9 years ago, when compostable food ware was still in its infancy, because by using compostable food ware, it’s easier for you to get organics where they belong – composting!

    Paradigm Shifts:

1. “Waste management” = Resource Recovery

The Plastic Bank presentation by David Katz

To quote David Katz from the Plastic Bank; “the problem is that we view plastics as disposable.” Take a second and think – what was the last thing you threw in the garbage? What about in the recycling? How do those feel different? What value does the recyclable have over the ‘landfillable’?

Now, imagine that everything belongs in the recycling. Paradigm shift! No longer are we ‘managing waste’, we’re recovering valuable resources.

That’s the feeling of your green bin, of compostable food ware; the feeling of resource recovery – where products get put to use, after use. In the circular economy, all products become a nutrient for a new manufacturing cycle.

2. Collaboration, not competition
Although competition gets you ahead financially in the old-fashioned economy, it’s collaboration that works best in the new economy, where ecosystem health is a priority. This is embodied from actual industrial symbiosis to the collaborative efforts from the National Zero Waste Council and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Project Mainstream. Our business is a great example, since we only flourish by creating multi-level partnerships between suppliers, haulers, and compost facilities!

This reminds us of the Leverage Lab hosted in May by Future Strategies, in partnership with VanCity and ScienceWorld, where we rubbed shoulders with a ton of like-minded individuals and discovered real linkages across our supply chains! It’s awesome realizing this motion is already happening in Vancouver.

3. The changes are possible and already happening
Jeremy Rifkin spoke about the sharing economy. His intelligent discussion on how waste is dramatically reduced in a society with near-zero marginal costs was an eye-opener. It became clear that a low-waste economy is not only achievable, but in some ways, well on its way!

An example of this is streaming videos online – a video is uploaded once, and then it can be watched millions (billions?) of times around the world, with near-zero cost for each additional time played. This compares to the cost – and waste! – of producing one more physical CD, DVD, etc. In every industry there’s the opportunity for a sharing economy to take place and reduce waste.

If you want to talk to us about the circular economy and how compostable food ware fits in, get in touch!

P.S. For more information on the speakers from the conference, check out this link:
Zero Waste Conference 2014

And you can see videos and presentations from the awesome 2013 conference here:
Zero Waste Conference 2013

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