It's not waste until it's wasted
The term 'Waste' as we nowadays think of it doesn't have a place in this millennium. Arguably, it never had a place in the world at all - given how we must think of our world as everything from the deepest corners of the ocean to the barrier of the stratosphere, 19km high. Because very little ever leaves our little corner of the universe, and very little that is new ever enters it.
Here are some of the ways in which the Collins Dictionary defines the word
WASTE: 1. to use, consume, or expend thoughtlessly, carelessly, or to no avail 2. to fail to take advantage of 7. the act of wasting or state of being waste 8. a failure to take advantage of something 9. anything unused or not used to full advantage 10. anything or anyone rejected as useless, worthless, or in excess of what is required 11. garbage, rubbish, or trash 17. rejected as useless, unwanted, or worthless 18. produced in excess of what is required
Looking at such definitions of the word, when we employ Waste almost everyday it is not to refer to something of no actual value, but rather something we have thoughtlessly or carelessly consumed and then disregarded, or something we have failed to take full advantage of. When we waste, it is not simply because of a failed system - it is due to a failure in our own perception and imagination. We have failed to see the value of the resources that we are casting aside, or we have failed to imagine a more purposeful use for them.
Let's think about it for a moment: a container doesn't seize to be useful the moment it is empty. It is only because we never intended to buy a container, but rather its contents, that we see it as being of no value to us. In reality, wouldn't most of us be happy to carry that plastic bottle back to the supermarket and bring it back home refilled with fresh orange juice? But instead we have taken the opposite route, and designed containers which are by design useless once they've been open (ie. single serving yogurt cups).
Personally, I love the notion that Nothing is waste until it's wasted.
In other words, even if a product has reached it's end of life, or outlived its intended purpose, the materials it is made of aren't waste until we 'dispose' of them in such a way that they cannot be reused. But just because materials can be recycled, we should not rush to send products to that destiny any earlier than need be - as recycling is itself a resource-intensive process.
There is a limited amount of resources in our biosphere, and so one of the most important areas to focus on is making sure that the resources currently in use are used to their full extent, and then reused.
For me, this has been a given from the start: our bags are made out of fabric scraps that would have been thrown-away precisely because I think it is incredibly wasteful that we go to the trouble of weaving and dying fabrics, only to then not use as much of them as possible and instead throw them away. By the time these fabrics are being wasted, they have accumulated a considerable carbon and water footprint - not to mention the chemicals and even unethical labour in their history. To simply throw away tonnes and tonnes of fabric each year is to disregard all of that, it is to say that all of that is in the past and doesn't matter, even though the cycle will repeat itself as the world continues to have a demand for more textiles. It is the very definition of mindless consumption.
In issue 002 of One Aware magazine, we also wrote about the history of plastic and our relationship with this pesky material that has infiltrated itself into every area of our lives, and seemingly into every ocean and waterway too. We discuss in the article 'Plastic, Beauty in Disguise' some companies who are transforming our plastic crisis into an opportunity for long-lasting plastic products which are anything but disposable. One such company is w.r.yuma, who is 3D printing sunglasses out of plastics which until recently were barely ever reused or recycled, such as car dashboards and fridge doors.
Supporting businesses such as ours is only one small way in which you can contribute to an economy where resources are fully used. It all starts with your own ingenuity, by questioning what you are doing each time you are about to throw something into the bin 'can I still get good use out of this?' And if not, maybe it is time to Refuse that product the next time you are shopping.
How will you contribute to a circular, closed loop system where nothing is ever truly waste?
Let me know in the comments >>>