The Zero Waste initiative: the 5R method

Zero Waste Home
Book by Bea Johnson

In Switzerland, we count, a year and per capita, 701 kg of waste all in all among which 333 kg are not valuable. Near half of our waste thus finish in the incinerator and produce atmospheric pollutants (according to the data of the federal service of the environment in 2018). While the other half is sorted out then recycled, which means treated and modified to create again objects.

By adhering to a lifestyle without waste, we wish to go beyond the approach of recycling, supposing that the easiest waste to recycle is the one which does not exist!

The 5 R method described below, gives lines of thought onto our modes of consumption and a procedure to reduce our waste and so minimize our ecological footprint. The purpose is not to deprive ourselves but to take responsibility and to question all current habits and to consume in a smart way.

  • Refuse (...what we do not need)

    Let us think about our behavior as indirect consumer outside home. Let us think of the unnecessary objects which enter our life and let us refuse them; from the advertising leaflet to the free samples, via receipts, plastic bags and tumblers with single use. The purpose is not to hurt by refusing, but to bring a reflection on our habits as indirect consumers and to stop the demand growth on products which block us (leaflet which we do not even read, shampoo in the hotels which we do not use but what we love embarking and storing at home for example). Of course, this concept works only if the effort is collective.

  • Reduce (...what we need and that cannot be refused)

    We are used to a society of consumption, abundance. Let us favor quality over quantity. Let us think of how we can reduce our volume of consumption and adapt it to our real needs as well as to the volume of resources available on the planet. This stage has a real impact on the environmental crisis we are facing. Here are some lines of thought and challenges: reduce the use of the car, reduce the number of packagings during your grocery shopping by favoring shopping in bulk, reduce the number of emails to print at work, reduce numbers of household electrical appliances in your home, etc.

  • Re-use (...what we consume and that we cannot either refuse, or reduce)

    Let us extend the life cycle of our objects by reusing them. Let us favor packagings and reusable utensils, in sustainable, long-lasting materials (glass, fabric, metal instead of plastic materials for example). Let us favor a collective mode of consumption and the purchases of second-hand equipment and repair of objects rather than purchasing new material.

  • Recycle (...what we cannot either refuse, or reduce, or reuse)

    Recycling does not correspond to the first purpose of the zero waste lifestyle, it is one of last stages when we have already tempted everything to avoid waste. By thinking about our way of consuming, by refusing, by reducing and by reusing, we shall not have much to recycle, hopefully. Let us not forget that recycling is not the ideal solution to the environmental crisis. To recycle consists in modifying an object to create a new one, but this modification has an ecological cost and its smooth running depends on numerous factors.
  • Rot (…compost the rest)

    Let us think of composting the peels of fruits and vegetables, the rests of meals, and any other organic waste. They decompose naturally and return their nutriments to earth.