The term Zero Waste means "zero waste, zero wastage" and refers to a philosophy aimed at eliminating the causes of waste and wastage in human behavior. The Zero Waste approach aims to promote a shift towards sustainable, conscious use of our natural resources in order to bring our production and consumption behavior back into balance with nature. Zero Waste is not intended as an immediate rule, but rather as a long-term guiding principle that should be continuously strived for.
The Zero Waste Hierarchy describes the priority order of strategies that have the goal of a waste-free society, and is intended for political decision-makers, industries and individuals as well. Refuse as the fundament of this hierarchy means avoiding unnecessary consumption: where nothing is consumed, no waste is generated. A fundamental shift in thinking may sound simple at first but being aware of one’s one consuming behavior is in many cases the starting point. Good ways to reject mass consumption include shopping at packaging-free stores or second-hand shop. Second comes Reduce and it involves reducing one’s household to the bare minimum. Unnecessary possessions, such as clothing, electronics, etc. are replaced by borrowing those items instead of purchasing new ones.
The third principal Reuse aims to promote repairing older household items and then reusing it. This includes promoting repairable products and the repurposing of household items and materials for other uses. Recyclingmeans that everything that cannot be avoided, reduced, or reused back, should be added into the sustainable cycle. Since in reality, far from hundred percent recycling rate is achieved and additional energy and resources must be expended in the process, recycling is not a desirable guiding principle in the Zero Waste philosophy. At the bottom of the hierarchy, the Rot stage refers to composting biodegradable materials, such as kitchen waste at home or in local composting facilities. This can be used to produce compost for flower or plant fertilization.
In 2002, the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) was founded to establish global standards for the development of Zero Waste. Nowadays, many countries and cities have established local or national Zero Waste associations, all committed to the same goal. The French American environmental activist and author Béa Johnson, who lives in California, is considered a pioneer of the Zero Waste lifestyle. Johnson and her family produce only one Mason jar of waste per year. Johnson is also responsible for defining the 5R rules of the Zero Waste hierarchy.
Source: https://zerowastegermany.de/zero-waste-cities/ [12.05.2023].
Further, the Concept of Zero-Waste Cities has been developed, which requires a proper certification. Following this plan, communities commit to waste reduction and engage in a multi-year process actively pursuing zero waste through various measures. In Germany, the city of Kiel is a pioneer in this political development: by 2035, Kiel as a Zero Waste City aims to reduce its household and commercial waste by around 50 percent compared to 2017, and by around 70 percent by 2050. The goal of the Zero-Waste City program is to support and recognize communities in their transition towards Zero Waste through a sustainable approach and citizen participation.