Could we live without rubbish?

000231150 Will mountains of rubbish always be with us or could we move towards a zero waste society?

The concept of zero waste has been around since the 70s but more and more companies are shunning land fill and incinerators in favour of recycling, composting – or of getting rid of waste altogether.

But is this just wishful thinking on behalf of a few idealists or could the notion of a society without waste one day be reality? And what about the effect on the economy? Is it worth the sacrifice?

22 Responses to “Could we live without rubbish?”

  1. 1 Jessica in NYC
    October 23, 2009 at 14:49

    This is the plight of the developed world, too much unnecessary “things”. Thing that we don’t want, things that we don’t need, things that we can’t afford, things that goes used, things that are forgotten…

    It’s difficult to consume less after generations of wastefulness, but it is a sacrifice that must be made for the health future generations.

  2. 2 T
    October 23, 2009 at 15:17

    The technology exists now to dispose of rubbish and use to generate energy. Yet, the powerful oil companies do everything they can to crush any and all competition. Not because oil is better. But because that’s “capitalism.”

  3. 3 jens
    October 23, 2009 at 16:19

    @ T,

    we had central heating for many many houses from burning trash in switzerland all my life…..

  4. 4 Tom K in Mpls
    October 23, 2009 at 16:28

    Rubbish is the result of a variety of inefficiencies. It is a cost in several ways. One of the goals of production is to eliminate waste. Another is to use any ‘resource’ available to make a needed product. Technology is advancing and is making a difference, all in the name of profit. But right now the biggest issue is the waste of people that feel they need all and the best of everything that is sold.

  5. October 23, 2009 at 17:51

    It has to change. Plastic packaging everywhere is killing the planet. In remote Alaska all the people just pile all their black plastic trash bags filled with other plastics and batteries and whatever damaging stuff out on the ice of a river.

    In the spring these all float out to see and many are caught at highwater marks in brush. What a great wilderness. No wonder so many plastic trash litter our ocean floors and kill so many of the animals.

    Ought to demand an end to any containers that are not biodegradable. Charge
    $20 per plastic container to produce it in a factory.


  6. 6 patti in cape coral
    October 23, 2009 at 18:32

    Yes, I think we could live without rubbish and I don’t think it would be that much sacrifice to manage it. The idea of being so efficient as to only produce minimal to no waste is very appealing.

  7. 7 gary
    October 23, 2009 at 19:02

    Disorder (entropy) in the universe constantly increases. Life creates disorder. These occurrences are unavoidable. Rubbish, on the other hand, does not fit into the category of inevitably generated disorder; it is voluntarily generated disorder. Not only can we live without rubbish, we could use its contained human and natural wealth in a myriad of better ways. We not only can live without it, we would be very far ahead to eliminate it. Finally, its generation would threaten our very existence.

  8. 8 nora
    October 23, 2009 at 19:23

    If manufacturers were told to accept the return of packaging, they would come up with a less wasteful way to protect their products.

  9. 9 Ronald Almeida
    October 23, 2009 at 19:31

    In the old days when all the rubbish was biodegradable, not only was it not a problem but it even fertilised the earth, as long as it wasn’t left in crowded city streets. Now there is plastic, dangerous glass and metal fragments not to forget poisonous materials like the contents of batteries etc. Some western countries like Switzerland have managed to control it, through a strong awareness. People especially the young, tear up the packages within supermarket and leave it in the foyer. But people in India throw all the stuff anywhere as they did always. They and the govt. itself has absolutely no awareness of the dangers.

  10. 10 patti in cape coral
    October 23, 2009 at 19:45

    OK, let me try again… Yes I think we could live without rubbish and learn to consume less and be more efficient so as to produce much less, or maybe even no rubbish.

  11. October 23, 2009 at 20:09

    Are we really living in the 21st century. Just 10 years ago, if people were to tell me that big cities are going to have problem with rubbish, I would not believe them. Sadly, it is becoming a problem today…

  12. 12 Tom K in Mpls
    October 23, 2009 at 20:10

    From recent BBC News item: “Industry body the GSMA predicts that 51,000 tonnes of redundant chargers are generated each year.” and ” “This is a significant step in reducing the environmental impact of mobile charging,” said Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau. “Universal chargers are a common-sense solution that I look forward to seeing in other areas.”

    Now this is good governance at a global level. It will lower costs to all consumers, reduce waste, and improve competition. All this without requiring government monitoring. The best definition of genius is ‘ a simple solution to a complex problem’. Well, this is genius.

  13. 13 Jim Newman
    October 23, 2009 at 20:22

    Hello again
    Is this an incitement to ban parliament? Rubbish is a direct bye-product of the consumer society. Shipping it off to the bottom of the sea or to poor countries is not a long term solution. Unfortunately consumerism and employement go hand in hand and until this gordian knot is loosed we are condemned to perish in the shit we produce.

  14. 14 Thomas Murray
    October 23, 2009 at 21:09

    As much as I’d love to participate in San Francisco’s program of triaging household garbage into three recycling bins (one holds food waste for compost), I live in a three-apartment building for which we should all three have our own small recycling bin (they’re about the size of a Day-glo orange laundry basket); ironies of ironies, tho, two have been stolen. Meanwhile, newspapers, plastic bottles and metal cans are stacking up in paper grocery bags on my kitchen floor.

    Could be worse. Could be Los Angeles, where the lifespan of a recycling bin is about two days before someone makes off with it. However, this situation is counterbalanced by a weird subterranean industry of dumpster diving. Some guy would go through the apartment dumpster every morning — a different guy every morning — one specialized in paper, another in glass, another in plastic, you get the idea. One had a special tool, a broom handle with a large metal hook on the end, to pull out the good bits.

    And I found that, if I was vigilant, I could catch them in their pickup truck as they made their way up Landfare Ave. to have them haul away the ton of newspapers I had collected. Nevertheless, the system still left behind about 50 percent waste.

    @ Jens in Switzerland, Re: turning trash into fuel, splendid idea!!

    –Being a Packrat in Louisville, Kentucky, U*S.

  15. 15 vijay k pillai
    October 23, 2009 at 23:11

    I think it is a reality so long as one recognise there are ingenious people of third world in africa,asia and latin america who can make use of what we consider waste for land fill into useful products.it is not ncesssarily a zero waste nation per se but if one cannot find a useful wayt o ake use of waste send them off to these nations and they are capable of makig it to a resource.
    Having said dont send hazardous waste to these antions as dumping ground for toxic waste as has happened to an african country few years ago.

  16. October 24, 2009 at 12:33

    Even the carcass of a dead dog in a street can contain sharp teeth as white as pearls.

  17. 17 Dennis Junior
    October 24, 2009 at 23:56

    @ NewsHour:

    Will mountains of rubbish always be with us or could we move towards a zero waste society?

    I hope that the mountains of rubbish will be gone; But, in theory I wish WE could moved to a zero waste society…But, the society needs LOTS of encouragement to go that route.

    ~Dennis Junior~

  18. 18 claudine
    October 25, 2009 at 06:20

    A no waste society would be a nice idea, but it might remain an illusion.
    Even the neanderthals created waste but it was less visible because there were fewer of them.
    Now with a world population of more than 6 billion the waste would be very visible, even if we would manage to remove packaging or discarding of items that have become useless from the system.

  19. 19 Audrius Kviliunas
    October 25, 2009 at 10:16

    Yes come day when we will begin live without rubbish.At first we must to remake it creating other products or burn it creating heat.If all theese do not create enough profit or goverment will give subsidy or prices of theese products will be a little larger.But largest problem is rubbish which create ”green house effect”-coal,oil,gas additional burning rubish.Filters system can be solve tis problem but as examples of world countries show at this time this system is rather expensive and can be developed only little by little.

  20. 20 scmehta
    October 25, 2009 at 14:11

    “Nothing Goes Waste”; this entry in the The World Challenge 2009 (curtsy the BBC & Shell), I watched yesterday on the TV, was a great and glaring example to cite for treating/transforming most of the organic-wastes into very effective manures etc. Furthermore, there are other kind of wastes, that can be recycled and used for manufacturing ordinary or inexpensive products. Yes, we cannot live without wastes, but we certainly can find ways to put them to various good uses.

  21. 21 JanB
    October 25, 2009 at 18:56

    Technology could be of great help here, for example: in theory it’s possible to engineer bacteria that digest plastic and turn it into something that’s biodegradable or can easily be recycled.

    Of course we can cut huge amounts of waste already: why does everyone have to buy coffee in little plastic cups these days, when commuting to, or form, their work, while you can get coffee that’s much better and cheaper, in a glass from a coffee machine in your own home or at work?

    Nevertheless, zero waste is impossible, that’s where technology can and should step in.

  22. 22 John costigane
    October 27, 2009 at 06:19

    Zero Waste is on the political agenda, here in the UK, and about time too. The idea is for consumers to lead the move to sustainable amounts of waste by taking personal responsibility in their purchasing decisions.

    Another aspect is promoting businesses who have the same aim. A company which takes back all its waste end-product from consumers has particular relevance. Tetra Pak are one such company. They will accept the whole empty pack for reprocessing.
    Their system may be imperfect but their thinking is spot on.

    Zero Waste is also a world issue, when our waste ends up in Third World locations: even worse when hazardous waste ends up in Brazil. The challenge is for each country to deal with waste internally and reducing the amounts of it will certainly help with this issue

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