About zero waste

Why zero waste?

Eliminating waste is a priority for government, businesses and third sector organisations because:

  • Global demand for raw materials and energy is accelerating at an alarming rate. Sources of virgin materials (such as rare earth metals) are running out. The costs of energy, food and materials are rising fast.

  • Linear resource use (take, make, dispose) is being replaced by more efficient and sustainable models that keep materials in the loop, allowing them to be used again and again.

  • Government policy and financial support is increasingly focused on sustainability. The Zero Waste Regulations in Scotland and similar guidance in the rest of the UK is driving the business sector to manage resources more sustainably.

  • Landfill space is running out and certain materials are being banned from landfill altogether. Meanwhile, concern about climate-changing emissions will increase the pressure on inefficient use and processing of materials.

  • More aware and social media-savvy consumers and campaigners are demanding transparency about environmental performance, and they will punish companies that lag behind.

"This government is committed to ensuring we use our resources more carefully and the UK is now producing less waste than ever before. This reflects a lot of hard work by local authorities and businesses, and a desire from householders to cut down on waste.” Resource Management Minister Dan Rogerson, November 2014

How can Zero Waste be realised?

In one sense, achieving zero waste means more of the same, the 3Rs of waste: reduction, re-use and recycling. All three must increase.But zero waste also implies a new mind set, with waste being managed as a valuable resource.

The aim in recycling is to close the loop, so recovered waste materials are fed back into the production cycle, creating a virtuous, closed circle, as in nature. That thinking is now being applied at the macro level to how the economy works. Currently we take, make and dispose - it's a linear model. So recycling and resource management is an afterthought or bolt-on.

The circular economy offers a different business model, one that values resources and energy at each stage of the process from cradle to cradle. In other words, it eliminates waste by designing products for disassembly, re-use, remanufacturing or refurbishment, with minimal value and energy loss at each stage.

Policymakers and business experts have begun to see the necessity and opportunities of shifting to a circular economy. Achieving the ultimate goal of a Zero Waste society will talk collaboration, innovation and sheer hard work, and will result in significant benefits to communities, the economy and the environment.

Who will bring about a Zero Waste Economy?

The answer, ultimately, is that everyone will have to play their part, but the Zero Waste Awards aim to celebrate the trailblazers and inspire others to follow.

The recycling and waste management sector, of course, has a vital role to play, supporting its customers with a variety of solutions from recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion through to energy-from-waste.

Product and packaging designers and manufacturers can make waste prevention and minimisation a core aim when producing goods.

The service and public sectors from manufacturers, hotels and retailers to local authorities and hospitals have the opportunity to eliminate waste from their own operations as well as the supply chain.

Innovative and creative solutions will also be needed from technology providers, inventors and the voluntary sector.

The Zero Waste Awards recognise advances in these and other areas.

Zero Waste Awards