Two recipients of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize are working to abolish the practice of sending trash to landfills and incinerators. And the idea is catching on.
Padilla and Ercolini’s stories show that zero waste is not only a personal choice, but also an organized system that works at multiple levels including the community, municipality, nation, and region. Zero waste systems include:composting, recycling, reuse, and education on how to separate materials into these categories;door-to-door collection of recyclable and compostable stuff; swap meets, flea markets or freecycle websites to exchange reuseable goods and encourage people to buy less;policy change, including bans on incineration and single-use plastic bags, and subsidies and incentives for recycling;regulation of corporations to require them to buy back and recycle their products once they are used by consumers (glass soda bottles and tires are examples of products subject to this regulation in some countries).
Zero waste systems are designed with the goal of eliminating the practice of sending trash to landfills and incinerators. Not only is this possible, it’s already beginning to happen. Ercolini’s hometown of Capannori, Italy, has already achieved 82 percent recycling and reuse and is on track to bring that figure to 100 percent by 2020.