Zero waste, not recycling

Getting To Zero Waste, Paul Palmer

Recycling is consumer-oriented and aims to take junk and try to do something with it. Zero Waste says, design it better from the start so that there is nothing left to recycle. Among the big problems with recycling is that everything is so badly packaged and labeled that recycling becomes difficult at best.

From The Death of Recycling by Paul Palmer

Why have the designers been able to design waste so cavalierly into their products? A large part of the answer is the ready availability of a subsidized dump. As we get further into a zero waste society, dumps will not only become unnecessary but as soon as any zero waste solution can be applied, the dump can be legally put off limits. When there is no eternally welcoming dump for a product, there will be no alternative to designing for perpetual reuse.

In recycling, a glass bottle is shipped to a plant to be melted down and turned into more glass. In Zero Waste, the bottle is simple refilled. It’s a whole different paradigm, one that is needed now.

Tip: Green Lefts


  1. I was in Fry’s Electronics the other day. They were selling Flash drives, which most of you probably know are little things smaller than a pack of gum. They were packaged on a large piece of cardboard, maybe 7″x10″, with hard plastic pack over. In the middle of this vast space was this tiny flash drive. Truly disgusting.

  2. Bravo to the Zero Waste concept, which has caught on already in Britain. (See this article.)

    Trader Joe’s recently switched from one-ply plastic overwrap on its lunchmeat to a big, non-recylable, allegedly resealable (but not really) container. Truly disappointing!

  3. Trader Joe’s did finally get rid of their pre-packaged, plastic wrapped fruit (and some veggies I think) and allow you to buy them singly. I don’t know if all the stores have switched over.

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