On the Way to Zero Waste! Can We Become a Zero Waste Planet?

Environmentalists today are working hard to make Planet Earth a zero waste planet. But will their hard work formalize into reality?

Will they ever be able to achieve their dream, especially when millions of people do not have any awareness on how to smartly manage their waste?

Zero waste living is a noble idea and one that requires everyone to participate. It means contributing nothing to landfill, reducing what we need, reusing things as much as we can, spend as little as possible to be recycled, and convert garbage into compost.

Zero waste lifestyle requires that we completely redefine the system. Today we live in a linear economy where we consume resources from the earth and then dump them all the waste into a giant hole in the ground. Going zero waste is about making the shift to a circular economy where we do away with the idea of trash by coming back to nature where there is no trash and everything is usable. In the circular economy, we do not discard resources, but we create a system where all the resources can be brought back fully into the system.

zero waste living
Image by ravenrecycling.org

 

Producing less trash, eliminating demand for wasteful products, replacing plastics bags with reusable cloth bags, using less paper, recycling electronics and converting food waste and biodegradable materials into compost can help us in reducing our trash and carbon footprint on Planet Earth.

Lauren Singer, an environmental activist, blogger, and entrepreneur has switched to Zero Waste lifestyle in New York City. She has been on this journey since 2012. She documents her journey on Trash is for Tossers – a blog that shows how leading a Zero Waste lifestyle is simple, timely, fun, cost-effective, timely and entirely possible for every person.

let’s hear his story:

Una acción que puede cambiar al mundo

Para nadie es un secreto que vivimos en una sociedad de consumo en todas las esferas, lo cual implica un grave deterioro de nuestro planeta a través de la contaminación del mar, de los ríos, de la tierra y de todo lo bonito que aún nos queda. Hay muchísimos factores que intervienen aquí, pero claramente, uno de los más implacables es la contaminación del plástico aunque tenga un disfraz demasiado bondadoso.

Así que hoy hablaremos de una excelente y enorme iniciativa de un pueblo en Guatemala, cuya acción deja una huella importante para el ambiente y que si todos replicamos estas acciones puedemos cambiar al mundo entero.

San Pedro La Laguna

Es un pueblo pequeño, mejor dicho, un municipio ubicado al sur de Guatemala que no supera los 24 km2 y con unos pocos habitantes que decidieron decirle “Hasta nunca” a la contaminación del plástico. San Pedro La Laguna no se jacta de avances tecnológicos, sociales, políticos y mucho menos industriales como sí lo hacen la mayoría de los países. Aquí al contrario en medio de lo simple, lo ancestral, y lo natural ellos mantienen armonía con el planeta… cualquiera podría decir que un país de América Latina, no tiene nada que aportar al modelo social que va en contra del consumo, sin embargo, San Pedro La Laguna ya demostró lo contrario.

contaminación de plástico
Photo by Thomas Delsol. Guatemala, Lago de Atlitan, San Pedro la Laguna

Un plan extraordinario

Los habitantes de este municipio hicieron sistemas de organización para detectar que el problema más grande que afecta al mundo es la contaminación del plástico, y que ellos no hacían la diferencia. Están rodeados de un hermoso lago que sufría los azotes de la contaminación: pensaron en generaciones futuras, pensaron en que terminaban con la vida de maravillosos seres acuáticos, pensaron en la desaparición de su pueblo por acciones que ellos mismos generaban con algo tan innecesario como los envases  o las bolsas de de plástico, y decidieron cambiar como en realidad todos debemos hacerlo.

Implementaron leyes que prohíben drásticamente el uso de plástico, lo cual los obligó a tomar vías de escape: En primer lugar limpiar toda la basura que había en su lago y en su tierra, se conoce que retiran más de 500 sacos por año y en segundo lugar, abrieron paso a la artesanía para continuar su diario vivir normalmente: servilletas de tela, canastas de paja, hojas de plátano para conservar alimentos frescos lo cual es muy positivo porque genera fuentes de producción, eso sin contar el arduo trabajo de reciclaje y recolección de desechos que tienen.

Sin dudarlo, San Pedro La Laguna se levanta como voz e inspiración para Guatemala y todos los hermosos países en América Latina. Un pequeño pueblo (insignificante y desconocido para muchos) apuesta por la transformación del mundo, y más que la transformación, apuesta por su renovación y la sostenibilidad.

Aunque ellos no son los únicos, son pioneros de una gran lección que todos deberíamos aprender: dejar de vociferar el importante cambio y tomar en serio esa acción contraria a la contaminación del plástico, pues  sólo de esa manera el mundo donde habitamos estará bien para nosotros y las generaciones futuras.

Ten ‘disguised’ microplastics that you have to avoid if you want to save the oceans

Among other things, car tyres, synthetic clothing and even tea bags contain microplastics.

The problem with any kind of plastic is that it eventually becomes tiny but never disappears completely. In the oceans even the largest and most stubborn pieces of plastic are broken down by the waves and sunlight until they are smaller than five millimetres in diameter – about the size of an ant. At that time, they are classified as’ secondary microplastics’. This type of plastic, which was once a drinking bottle, equipment for fishing, disposable cutlery and so on, is even more common than’ primary microplastics’, which were small from the outset, such as the micrograins contained in toothpaste.

Micrograins are the best known cause of contamination by small pieces of plastic. But that also means that there are other, less obvious sources for microplastics in everyday life. We call them ‘hidden microplastics’, and they fall within this category:

Car tyres

Car tyres are made of rubber and approximately 60% plastic (styrene-butadiene). The friction, pressure and heat caused by driving, the tyres wear out so hard that plastic dust is formed. Blowing that dust into the atmosphere can contribute to poor air quality. This is seen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a cause of premature death.

The dust can also flush to rivers and oceans via sewers. It will probably be eaten there by filtering animals such as mussels, which will end up in our food chain. The industry could go back to natural rubber rubber latex, but that would put too much pressure on the environment: growing rubber plantations are already a catastrophe for endangered species in South East Asia.

Waste plastics ares strewn on the Bao beach near Dakar, on September 2, 2015. About 4.5 million Senegalese (66.6% of the national population) live in the Dakar coastal area and most of the economic activity in the country are concentrated in the coastal zone. A preliminary study of Senegal has demonstrated that sea-level rise due to global warming could have major impacts causing inundation in the delta and estuaries and erosion along the sandy coastlines. AFP PHOTO / SEYLLOU (Photo credit should read SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Synthetic clothing

Outdoor sports equipment, leggings, fleeces and sweaters made of acrylic, polyester, polyamide, spandex or nylon release up to 700,000 microfibres per wash. And once they end up in the water, it is difficult to filter them out again. More still, research has shown that in many countries the tap water now contains microfibres.

In the USA, for example, 94% of the steel microfibres contained. They end up in the air because of friction or as dust from the dryer and can then be inhaled. It is also suspected that the lungs can absorb the toxins in the fibres. In nature, the microfibres are eaten by fish and other animals, which prefer them to’ real’ food. A solution can be to provide all washing machines with filters and to choose natural fibres.

Tennis balls

The fluffy exterior is made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the same material that plastic milk bottles are made of. Just like car tires, the plastic is worn away by use, making it dusty.

Pods or tablets for dishwasher or washing machine

All kinds of detergents and abrasive disinfectants contain microplastics such as polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), the same granules banned in cosmetics in France and the United Kingdom. It would be better to use a natural material, such as ground coconut shells.

Cigarette butts

The filters are made from cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that is not biodegradable. They can emit microfibres and, when used, they also emit large quantities of toxins, including nicotine. Cigarette butts are a major polluter in the oceans and are most frequently collected when cleaning up beaches.

Glitter

Glitter is a favourite part of craft lessons, but not innocent. It is made from PET or polyvinyl chloride film (PVC) and is very difficult to break down. Instead, you could use glitter of biodegradable film made from eucalyptus.

Wet wipes

All these products are usually made from polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene – or from a mixture of these plastics and natural fibres. They cause so-called “fat mountains” that block sewers and are not broken down. They are also a source of plastic microfibres. A traditional flannel version made entirely of cotton is an environmentally friendly solution.

Tea bags

Many tea bags are not fully biodegradable because they include a polypropylene “skeleton”. This skeleton then breaks down into tiny particles when the paper is decomposed in the compost heap or soil. Ask the producer if your tea is free of plastic, or switch to loose tea.

Paint

Plastic dust from thermoplastic paint used for road markings, ships and houses is spread over the ocean surface. Fortunately not all paint contains plastic: go looking for paint with linseed oil or latex as a binding agent.

Paper cups

Paper cups are coated on the inside with a layer of polyethylene. Just like tea bags, the paper is completely broken down, but the plastic falls apart when the cup is thrown away or composted. Such mixed materials must therefore be treated by a specialised recycling company. You can also always bring a refillable bag.

“Underneath the palm trees and embedded in our soft sand are microplastics.” Photo by BPM Ocean Ambassador Tarryn Johnson, at Cotton Bay Lagoon, Eleuthera.

 

According to the Plastic Soup Foundation, 311 million tonnes of new plastic are currently being produced each year. Approximately half is for single use and is thrown away immediately. Most plastics are not biodegradable. We neet to combat plastic pollution in the ocean becouse is growing at an appalling rate. Plastic production is expected to increase enormously in the coming years as the world population and economy continues to grow.

Watch this this documentary shot on more than 20 locations. Explorers Craig Leeson and Tanya Streeter and a team of international scientists reveal the causes and consequences of plastic pollution and share solutions.

Plastic Bank – Stop Ocean Plastic

Plastic Bank is one of the most popular programs that was first found in 2013 by David Katz & Shaun Frankson to give a solution to stop ocean plastic. Plastic Bank has a mission to stop Ocean Plastic by inviting many people to earn money by collecting some waste from the ocean to clean up the sea. Plastic Bank has a hope to get rid of plastic garbage from the ocean and save the sea species life from contamination.

As we know that our ocean today is no longer clean because of plastic bags which are floating on the sea and kill many sea species. Everybody must take responsibility to clean up the ocean from plastic garbage. In this case, Plastic Bank will try to facilitate the people to collect some garbage from the ocean and make some money from the waste.

Plastic pollution

Do you want to get some extra income while saving our environment too? Fortunately, you are able to join this Plastic Bank program and you can also invite others to do the same and earn some money from collecting some plastic waste. Nowadays, there are about one million people who support this program and you can even find this Plastic Bank solution on social media networks. This can be the best way to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean and find the value in the waste found where you can send the plastic garbage to collectors.

Plastic Bank is not only helping the environment, but they also save the life of sea species so that they can regenerate and have a better ecosystem. Now, it is our turn to be aware of our ocean condition for a better environment. In addition, it is also will be very beneficial for the human health and it also gives a beauty value and makes our world look wonderful again. Plastic Bank will never stop this program until the ocean is clean totally and they also invite people for not littering and care about the environment more.

Improves environmental quality and management of hospital waste

Inhambane is a province of Mozambique located on the south coast of the country.

Health-care Key facts: Of the total volume of waste generated by health-care activities, the 85% is overall. The remaining 15% is measured unsafe material that may be infectious, lethal or radioactive. Every year an estimated 16 billion injections are managed worldwide, but not all of the needles and syringes are appropriately disposed of afterwards. Health-care waste holds potentially harmful microorganisms, which can contaminate hospital patients, health workers and the general community. In some situations is incinerated, and dioxins, furans and other poisonous air pollutants may be shaped as emissions.

The main objective of this project was to improve the environmental quality and the hospital waste management system in the province of Inhambane designing a protocol for the management of hospital waste from working sessions with local technicians and experts in the field. Also the design and construction of waste management modules in 4 hospital centers and the recruitment of hospital facilities in both the Protocol and the use of the modules.

We have worked on other projects in Mozambique such as sustainable mobility in public spaces

The Ocean Clean Up -A Solution to Get Rid of Plastic Trash in the Sea

According to the NGO Plastic Oceans the propagation of plastic products in the last 70 years has been surprising. We are now producing closely 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.

The initiative that aims to end with the ocean waste is called The Ocean Clean Up. They are like barriers (large) that prevent floating debris from following the natural course of global marine currents. Placed in strategic points, these barriers would capture a large part of the floating matter that passes through where there is one of these.

ocean pollution solutions
The Ocean Clean Up Prototype

The Ocean Clean Up technology will be able to block and catch plastic trash on the sea meanwhile the pipe is also able to follow the wave stream in the form of U-shape. Once there some plastics caught by the floater, and then a vessel of the Ocean Clean Up will come and take the whole trash using a pump and belt.

After cleaning up the trash from the sea surface, it will save the sea species from danger. Meanwhile, the plastic garbage will be collected and then it will be recycled to be converted into high-quality products such as chairs, cell phone, car bumper, toys, sunglasses, and much more.

They currently have a prototype installed in the North Pacific. The operational design, however, is believed to be operational until the mid-2018.

E-Waste Program the Best Way to Collect Electronic Garbage

In this modern era, there are so many electronic devices that have been manufactured and they now become garbage that can pollute the environment. Many people do not know what to do with their broken phones, computers, and televisions, so they just throw their unused electronic devices to landfill. Meanwhile, these unused electronic devices can actually be recycled so they do not pollute the environment. Fortunately, there is an important solution to solve this electronic garbage problem, especially for those who live in India. It is E-Waste Program that can help people in India solve their Electronic waste issues.

The Solution 

E-Waste is a program that aims to train waste pickers in India to be recognized as a formal waste picker to collect some electronic waste such as smartphones, TVs, computers, and others so that these products can be recycled. The waste pickers will use special waste boxes in green accent and then they look for electronic waste from home to home or through socialization. There are about 2000 garbage pickers who have been trained to deal with electronic garbage for the purpose of recycling and safe disposal. Certainly, this program is very beneficial for society and environment.

electronic waste recycling
Villagers stand amongst piles of E-Waste in the village of Sangrampur, located south of Kolkata in north-east India. Globally, it is estimated that approximately 50 million tonnes of eWaste are produced annually which much of it ending up in countries such as India. Image by Sean Gallagher. India, 2013.

Benefits of E-waste Program

This program can help Indian citizens provide new jobs so they can meet their daily needs. This program was initiated by Chintan in collaboration with Delhi’s Pollution Control Committee to train waste pickers so they can improve their ability to collect garbage to keep the environment clean and uncontaminated. Another benefit is to collect e-waste for safe disposal because electronic garbage contributes bigger impact toward the environment pollution. This program is also part of going green program to protect the world from dangerous materials that may damage ecosystem and nature. Next, once the waste pickers collect some electronic garbage, then the garbage will be recycled to reuse again or it may be converted into high-quality products that are useful for all of the people.

This effort will reduce methane emission, reduce overall energy consumption, generate green jobs for waste pickers, and much more.

Strategies for the recovery and recycling of raw materials

IRCOW (2011-2014) and HISER (2015-2019) projects aim to develop solutions for maximizing the material recovery from construction and demolition Waste (C&DW). Cost efficient recovery requires both enhanced segregation of materials at demolition/refurbishment works and integral recycling approaches. Providing solutions for increased levels of quality assurance of recycled materials, higher certainty of their influence in current manufacture processes and (performance/durability) of the subsequent building products is also aimed, as can lead to increased demand. Also standards/policy recommendations are expected, to drive higher market acceptance.

Amongst others, IRCOW adapted advanced sorting technologies for improving the quality of recycled aggregates. This approach is being fine-tuned in HISER. Other HISER technological solutions for C&DW recycling refer to electro-fragmentation techniques (for the selective release of materials adhered in the stony fraction) or the mobile treatment plant for stony fraction, including ADR classification/refining process and a LIBS-based quality assurance system. Innovative recycling equipment of gypsum-based waste and the optimization of recovery concepts for C&D wood and mineral wool are in the pipeline. Moreover, closing the material loop, a range of recycled products was designed in IRCOW. Likewise, HISER is optimizing products such as cements, concretes, bricks, gypsum-based products or extruded composites.

In the chapter of solutions for increased segregation of materials at works, HISER is developing a software tool to support the pre-demolition study. Also a tracking system that can lead to higher quality of the to-be recycled waste and increased trust in its quality. Reuse option was also explored by IRCOW. All solutions are/will be tested in case studies and (economically/environmentally) assessed from a life cycled perspective.

IRCOW and HISER projects received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme and Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme respectively, under grant agreement numbers 265212 and 642085.

Clean-Way software construction and demolition waste recycling

Clean-Way Ltd. is an innovative waste management company aiming to maximize the collection and recycling of construction and demolition waste in Hungary.

Being one of the leading companies with expertise in C&D waste management, the management launched an R&D project in order to maximise the reuse and recycling of C&D generated in Hungary.

The final outcome of this project is an ICT tool: the Clean-Way software, which can help every stakeholder of the construction industry: municipalities, constructors, waste recyclers.

The software collects and shows real-time data to all users about the following:

– Site information is listed: all construction sites where C&D waste is being generated

– Location is shown: the sites are located on a map, using different – Data of producer: C&D waste generating company and contact details

– C&D waste: Amount and EWC code of the C&D waste

– Data on material wanted: not only generated waste, but also “wanted” material can be registered, to help the match between producers and users of the material

– Stakeholders access: usage can be different according to the stakeholder (constructor generating waste, constructor looking for by-product or recycled material, authority)

The software can help in creating a link between the demolition site and the new construction site. It reduces transport cost, environmental emissions related to a low cost material. We would like to highlight the benefits and the potential uses of the software, and start a regional or national discussion about the introduction of innovative (ICT) tools in waste management.

Our aim is to maximise waste reuse, save cost and reduce environmental emissions!

Construction and demolition waste recovery assessment & optimisation

A Performance, Economic and Environmental Recycling Assessment (PEERA) Methodology was established part of a project funded by the UK government and the construction industry, allowed “Built Environment Action on Waste Awareness and Resource Efficiency” (BEAWARE). The project talked issues associated with: supply chain resource efficiency; and cross sector construction and demolition (C&D) waste recycling opportunities.

The PEERA technique is a waste mapping and decision support tool to explore C&D waste recycling potential opportunities. It speeches several problems such as: gathering lifecycle data on waste varieties and amounts; examining disposal and current recycling costs; detecting and addressing reuse and recycling limiting factors (e.g. economic, technical and environmental blockers); ranking C&D waste materials in terms of their recycling potential; and measuring the viability of reprocessing routes.

The PEERA methodology includes ten stages:

  • Waste targeting
  • Waste composition
  • Waste prioritizing
  • Waste causes, amounts and value
  • Waste costs and current recycling station
  • Recycling limiting factors
  • Re-use/recycling possibilities
  • Re-use/recycling requirements
  • Re-use/recycling costs and markets.

The PEERA methodology was authenticated through a series of workshops and studies, during which information was collected directly from key supply chain stakeholders. More than 45 C&D waste materials were recognized during the initial waste targeting data collection. Through a systematic selecting and prioritizing process across the PEERA methodology stages, 10 C&D waste materials with high recycling potential were designated for the final two stages: recycling requirements (Stage 9) and recycling costs and market worth (Stage 10). Within the timeframe of the project, the emphasis has been focused towards waste materials that: happen in sufficient abundance; are chemically stable; are arranged at source; do not incur unnecessary collection, transportation and processing costs; and can be easily be related with markets for recycled products. As a result, Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) waste was designated for recycling experimental optimization programs leading to new applications. Hence, laboratory testing tests were directed towards measuring the potential of recycling GRP waste in rubber composites and existing composites. While the validation of the PEERA methodology led to products within the construction sector, it could be customized and used for an extensive range of potential applications in other businesses.