Zero Waste in a Wellbeing Economy

Tags: WEAll Briefing Papers

Zero Waste in a Wellbeing Economy

Lead author: Malin Leth

The latest WEAll briefing paper on Zero Waste in a Wellbeing Economy offers many inspiring case studies for ways to shift towards a waste-free world. The paper, led by Swedish zero waste expert Malin Leth, describes the irony of how we have generated a highly materialistic culture that does not actually value materials. Five Rs of Refusing, Reducing, Reusing, Recycling and Restoring can help shift the current path and build a regenerative and circular Wellbeing Economy.

The paper outlines practical examples of communities, business and governments around the world that are putting each of the five Rs into action. For example:

  • The town of Kamikatsu in Japan is a small town with a big ambition. In 2003, Kamikatsu became the first municipality in Japan to make a zero-waste declaration. The town can now pride themselves on a 80% recycling rate. In Kamikatsu, waste is sorted into 45 categories and local artisans work to upcycle old materials into new items, such as bags, clothes, toys and other goods. There is an incentive system whereby people can collect recycling points in exchange for eco-friendly products. The local brewery in the town, itself made out of recycled materials, brews beer from farm crops that would otherwise be thrown out. Left-over grains from the brewery are transformed into a liquid fertilizer, which is then used to grow barley for the beer.
  • The Loop Store collaborates with major brands, manufacturers and retailers, such as large supermarket chains, to develop refillable versions of existing single-use products and to embed these offerings into leading physical and e-commerce stores. Shoppers are able to purchase branded products in refillable packaging, can then send or bring empty packaging back for professional cleaning, and pick up another pre-filled package of their chosen product.
  • Meanwhile, the city council of Amsterdam has introduced new standards for the circular use of materials in the construction industry. Each new building must be accompanied by a materials passport that explains how it can be taken apart and reused at the end of its life cycle. By reimagining buildings as material banks from which valuable products can be harvested after they become obsolete, this initiative helps cities like Amsterdam reimagine themselves as resource centres rather than consumer markets.
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