What is Zero Waste Cleaning?
For the unacquainted, ‘Zero Waste’ in literal terms evokes an idea that seem too idealistic to yield a favourable outcome. Afterall, everything humans do invariably generate some form of waste, so surely leaving ‘zero’ behind is nothing more than just a pipedream.
This blog article explains what Zero Waste really means, and how we as a society have produced more waste than we, and indeed the planet, can manage. A powerful but challenging concept, Zero Waste principles have proven to contribute tangible results for businesses worldwide in their reduction of carbon emissions and costs. It has also inspired the birth of new product innovations, including zero waste cleaning, that deliver both financial and operational advantages as well as a cleaner, safer environment.
What is Zero Waste?
Zero waste is about minimising the volume and toxicity of waste, maximising recoverability and reusability of materials, and minimising the amount of trash that goes into landfill.
The Zero Waste International Alliance define Zero Waste as ‘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.’
The idea of eliminating waste completely should be viewed as an ultimate goal in as much as it is to achieve a road death toll of zero, or a smoke-free society. The emphasis is on consciousness and proactivity - decisions, practices, actions and management plans that inch us closer and closer to this goal.
So where does waste come from?
Waste is not only the by-product of manufacturing, consumption and demolition. It is what we can see as well as what we can not, such as the amounts of energy required to manufacture something as simple as a pencil, which includes deforestation and mining, transporting materials, running of factory machines, ovens, water, use of glues and paints.
Waste also comes from excess and inefficiencies.
Consumerism and Excess in our Lifestyle
We are in an age of instant gratification and convenience. At our beck and call are vending machines, café fridges, supermarkets and service stations standing by to quench our thirst, resulting in 40 million plastic water bottles thrown out each day, not counting juices and soft drinks. These bottles may disappear into the bottom of the recycle bin, but they certainly do not disappear from the planet. A dangerous and toxic cocktail of chemicals caused by plastic rubbish breaking down at sea, are already floating in the oceans of the world, killing marine life and returning to us via our food and water. One in particular, a drifting ‘plastic soup’ twice the size of continental United States, stretches from Hawaii to Japan.
We also live in a disposable society, from nappies to commercial packaging to fashion. As consumers, we want larger TVs but smaller pantries, thus more energy and materials (and waste thereof) go into packaging smaller volumes of food and other consumer goods that we buy, consume and dispose as rubbish within minutes.
Why do household cleaners come in quality, reusable 500ml and 750ml bottles destined for refuse after one use? Smaller volumes usually mean the manufacturer/retailer gives less but charge more per metric unit, so inefficient packaging is simply a ‘necessary evil’ to aid in this strategy of revenue maximisation, at a severe cost to the environment.
Each year in Australia, we give away as much as $500 million worth of unwanted Christmas gifts that recipients are likely never to use, and if not regifted or sold on eBay, end up in a mounting landfill. Not to mention the millions of tonnes of C02 released into the atmosphere to make, transport, store, sell, buy and dispose of this novel item that serve neither want nor need.
There are causal factors in every action we take, if only we spare a thought for it.
80% of environmental damage is built into its product/service design
Companies are making genuine change and becoming success stories. Take Xerox for example. Xerox’s product design improvements save 387 million kilowatt hours of electricity, equivalent to lighting 290,000 homes a year. Their efforts have diverted 1 billion kilograms of waste from landfill since 1991, and millions of dollars in reduction, reuse and recycling savings back into the business.
Still, every time your television breaks down just after its warranty ends, or your clothes fall apart after its first wash, the product manufacturer is responsible for engineering environmental damage into its design. Quality is compromised. Sacrificing on quality, whether to meet customers’ price points, or to make greater profits, invariably means sacrificing the environment.
Similarly, cleaning chemical suppliers that provide no recourse or solution for the collection and recycling of used plastic drums, too build environmental damage into its product and service design.
A quality design is always sustainable.
Zero Waste is a multi-dimensional approach to conserving our planet’s precious and limited resources.
By understanding the true cost of resource consumption in producing goods or services of value, we start to look at waste not as something we hope would disappear, but as an asset, a fundamental missing link to the next step in the manufacturing process. We harmonise our lifestyles with nature (not the other way round), and make purchasing decisions accordingly. We begin to treat the entire supply chain from earth-to-earth with respect.
How do you identify a Zero Waste design?
A Zero Waste product:
What is Zero Waste cleaning?
Zero Waste cleaning is gaining momentum in Australia and around the world. Before understanding how Zero Waste in cleaning is achieved, it is important to examine the types of waste generated by conventional cleaning product systems.
* Toxic waste – While green alternatives are available, many brands on the market still contain harsh acids, petroleum-based surfactants, VOC’s, phosphates and other environmental pollutants
* Plastic waste – Conventional cleaning products are delivered in plastic drums of liquid concentrates. Depending on the end-user’s recycling management policy, many plastic drums are neither collected, nor reused. These drums end up in garbage or regular recycling bins.
* Energy waste – Due to inherent bulk and weight, energy is expended in manual handling, forklifting, and storage within large warehousing facilities. This occurs at both the supplier and user end.
* Carbon Emissions in Transportation – Due to inherent bulk and weight, transporting liquid-weighted cleaning chemicals require large delivery trucks and greater fuel consumption.
* Administration waste – Training personnel in multi-step processes for preparing chemical solutions, setting guidelines for dilution rates and minimize physical exposure to chemicals is required as part of OHS, but nevertheless a burden on company’s resources.
Zero Waste cleaning products, such as Bio+Green Crystals and LessPak, are delivered in concentrated powder form, wrapped in a protective film that dissolves in water together with the powder it holds. One 14-gram dose of LessPak Pine Point Floor Cleaner, for instance, makes 20 litres of ready-to-clean solution, and can be dropped straight into mop buckets, floor scrubbers, or a permanent storage container. Waste, in terms of plastic drums, are completely eliminated.
LessPak also works to reduce a company’s carbon footprint and delivery costs. Where trucks were previously required to deliver cleaning chemicals, the same quantity can be sent via parcel mail. Storage space waste is eliminated by 98%. For other industries to create a paradigm shift towards Zero Waste, it may require a similarly major if not complete overhaul of its current system, rethinking of design, manufacturing processes, and marrying customer and environmental needs.
The achievement of Zero Waste in our homes and businesses require firstly a consciousness of cause and effect, as highlighted in earlier examples about our societal comforts and present lifestyle.
Reversing the long term effects of climate change, and preserving the health and wellbeing of people and our planet depend on the cumulative effect of all factions of the community sustaining a cohesive behaviour towards reducing and ultimately eliminating waste.
If you would like more information, or wish to use this blog article, please contact Joanie Lim, EcoFuture via email.
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