The interest in the 'zero-waste' movement is growing across our community. For many years we have focussed our efforts on recycling and while that is important and will continue to be important, we also need to focus our attention further up the waste hierarchy so we can reduce our overall waste footprint. In short, we need to prevent or avoid waste in the first place.
Many consumers now understand the importance of reducing their overall waste footprint by avoiding packaging waste, single-use plastics or questioning the need to purchase some items. Equally, there are also businesses that now understand that there is a growing community who want to see less waste associated with the products they purchase and that it is simply good business to meet that demand.
When ABC's 'War on Waste' highlighted the number of single use coffee cups we use we saw an immediate surge on the use of 'keep cups' for takeaway coffee. What did we learn? When we highlight a problem, people pay attention!
The growth in different businesses and community activities to reduce packaging waste in food is another great example. No Waste supermarkets or food retailers and Community Food Co-operatives where subscribers can do their weekly shop with little or no throw-away packaging have grown considerably. They might not be challenging the current supermarket shopping model but they are changing the habits of some consumers.
In recent years we have seen a number of waste reduction groups that focus on a single waste issue develop awareness programs for both business and consumers. Equally, there are a growing number of food businesses who are interested in packaging their product in a more sustainable fashion.
Good design and innovation in food packaging will make the biggest difference. Our reliance on traditional single-use plastic will need to morph into packaging options that see us reduce our overall waste production if we are to get on top of our growing waste issue.