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Zero-Waste Society: Hip or Hype?

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Zero-Waste Society: Hip or Hype?

There is no doubt humans have had a negative influence upon the planet. From the proliferation of plastics within our oceans to the undeniable fact of climate change, the writing is on the wall. Although governments have largely recognised that profound changes need to be made, these could very well be a long time in the making. The main question is how long it will take to begin to reverse the effects we have already seen. Might many more species be required to die? Could we experience even more severe weather, droughts and flooding? As this is uncharted territory, the verdict is still out. However, there are some who are calling for a switch to a society that exhibits no carbon footprint whatsoever. Is this a realistic demand or does such a vision represent nothing more than an altruistic dream? Let us look at both side of the equation from an objective point of view.

Going Completely Green

The most obvious benefit associated with a zero-waste global community is that many of the changes exerted upon the planet since the dawn of the industrial revolution will eventually be reverted (although this could take a great deal of time). Others point out that a cleaner environment will have a positive impact upon the health of our children and grandchildren. Toxins and similar concerns which have plagued specific portions of the world such as India could eventually disappear; another benefit.

It can be argued there are also massive opportunities from an economical point of view. New businesses will require an entirely different workforce with a unique set of skills; creating millions of employment opportunities. Thus, there has been some motivation from big firms to begin such a paradigm shift in order to accommodate for what they believe to be an inevitable future.

A Dose of Reality

While the scenarios outlined above are certainly pleasant at first glance, are they plausible? Would we simply be able to “switch off a light” and cease coal production within a handful of years? The answer is no. The fact is countless countries and billions of individuals rely upon the revenue generated from such industries to survive. If they were suddenly ablated, the Middle East would descend into turmoil. Sudden job losses would send global stock markets plummeting. Simply eliminating all present internal combustion engines is also not likely to happen overnight, as the logistics are not in place. In the same respect, factories would have to retool all of their equipment to meet changing requirements. This is to say nothing about the massive plastics industry and the losses that it would face.

So, we need to look at both sides of the proverbial coin when determining whether or not a zero-waste dream is realistically achievable. The most logical conclusion is that much like any of the other great changes which have occurred throughout history, such a vision will take a significant amount of time and it is likely to come across substantial resistance.



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