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  • Writer's pictureAnna Peach

International Day of Zero Waste

International Day of Zero Waste: Addressing the Waste Crisis 

Anna Peach (2023-24 Iowa UNA College Ambassador from the University of Iowa)

 

March 30, International Day of Zero Waste, encourages sustainable consumption and production, specifically to reduce the amount of municipal solid waste generated. Between 2.1 billion and 2.3 billion tons of waste is produced by the world annually, and this amount is expected to almost double by 2050. Bolstering waste management and advancing zero-waste initiatives will help to reduce the amount of waste created and polluted. 

 

Only 62% of municipal solid waste is managed in controlled facilities, with 2.7 billion people having no access to waste collection services. The UN Environmental Program describes how this mismanaged waste leads to pollution that harms both the environment and people. Solid waste that is not collected or inefficiently disposed of (dumped or burnt) leads to air, water, and soil pollution and contamination. Ecosystems are polluted with potentially dangerous substances that can harm humans through contamination of drinking water and animals and plants through the hazardous material found in municipal waste. 

 

The UN’s Waste Wise Cities initiative works to address the waste crisis through encouraging cities to create plans to assess and implement sustainable waste management plans. Cities are encouraged to collect data related to waste in their municipality and then develop projects that are applicable and sustainable to their unique situations. Cities as well as governments, private businesses, individual households, and all other stakeholders must act to minimize waste within their communities. The One Planet Network encourages the shift to a circular system which keeps products in use for as long as possible. This is an important idea both for small- and large-scale industries and businesses, as companies with constant and consistent waste have a duty to find uses for their excess materials. An example of this is the textile industry, where substantial amounts of scraps could be utilized instead of thrown out. 

 

Zerowaste.org defines zero waste as the conservation of resources with no discharges to the land, water, or air that threaten the environment or humans. At the individual level, there are many actions that can be taken to start a zero-waste journey. Visiting sustainable stores that use no or little packaging, such as farmer’s markets, thrift stores, or ‘zero waste’ stores, helps to lower individual waste levels. Utilizing reusable items, such as bags, mugs, or utensils, when heading out of the house helps to reduce the amount of waste produced through shopping and dining. Examining the upstream waste (the waste made in the production process) of items you are considering purchasing helps to consider pollution and emissions that are not visible to the consumer. Strawberries shipped across the country have a more negative impact than the strawberries bought at the farmers market down the street. 

The global effort to reduce waste requires change at the individual, city, national, and global level. The Iowa United Nations Association invites you to reduce your waste and encourage awareness of the amount of waste generated worldwide. You can learn more by consulting the Waste Wise Cities Advocacy Toolkit. We appreciate your advocacy in addressing the waste crisis. 

 

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