Aug. 14, 2021

Zero Waste, the circular economy and our climate future

Zero Waste, the circular economy and our climate future

Thanks to:

Rohan Singh, owner of Graina.

Central West Music and Video (production)

 

Rich Bowden talks to Australians who are behind the shifting in thinking on climate change.

 

Welcome to episode 2 of this podcast where we talk about zero waste and the circular economy.

 

I respectfully acknowledge that this podcast is produced on traditional Aboriginal Wiradjuri Nation lands. We pay respects to Elders both past and present and honour Wiradjuri connections to these lands, which they have nurtured for over 50,000 years.

 

Zero Waste and Circular Economy are 2 concepts that have gained enormous currency in recent decades. They both aim to reduce the horrendous waste problem in our world, and both are inextricably linked to reducing our carbon emissions. In my research I have found that zero waste can be interpreted in different ways by different people and that it and the concept of circular economy are often concepts that are used interchangeably.

 

However while both systems are designed to increase sustainability, they use different models:

 

Zero Waste International Alliance define Zero Waste as:-

 

“Zero Waste”: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health (December 20th 2018)

 

  1. If you want to go for a deeper dive on this subject visit Zero Waste International Alliance at, https://zwia.org/zwh/

 

So Zero Waste is a design model specifically to manage manufacturing and consumption in such a way as to reduce materials and reduce waste. Its stated aims are to reduce the levels of such things as plastics that cause so much destruction to the environment and detrimental health effects to all living inhabitants on the planet.

 

Zero Waste, as we know it, began in the 1980s and has since then tied in with the sustainability movement as people have become more aware of the devastating pollution problem in association with climate change.

 

The Circular Economy model, as defined on the highly respected Ellen Macarthur Foundation, has 3 key principles: -

 

  1. Design out waste and pollution
  2. Keeping products and materials in use
  3. Regenerating natural systems

 

P.S. Refer further Ellen Macarthur Foundation Website at, https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore/the-circular-economy-in-detail

 

Both Zero Waste and Circular Economy are designed to move away from our present take, make, and waste model of consumption.

 

One Zero Waste model that is gaining in popularity with consumers is with business trading.

 

This podcast concentrates on owner Rohan Singh’s explanation of his Melbourne based zero waste business called Graina. I became aware of Rohan’s philosophy for a more sustainable future through my work for him as a free lance writer.

Rohan’s 3 aims to zero waste in his businesses are:  reduce, recycle and reuse.

 

His definition of a zero waste company is:  no waste from start to finish

 

A customer brings their own containers, it is weighted and deducted from the weight of the product they want, and with this system they only pay for the products they want, there’s no waste created, and hopefully no food wasted.

 

Rohan’s positive approach to reducing waste in his business is most welcoming as his system is helping us to reduce our own carbon footprint.

 

P.S. Visit Graina Website for more details of his products and shop locations in Melbourne at,  https://graina.com.au

 

At times we can feel overwhelmed at time over so much information on the climate emergency and what to do to help but Rohan shows us the simple act of shopping can help reduce our carbon footprint, minimise waste in the household and help us to do our bit to preserve the planet for future generations

 

With Rohan’s positive message, which we fully support at climate shift, lets backtrack a little –– lets look at the clear need to move towards zero waste.

 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that Australia produced 75. 8 million tonnes of solid waste, between 2018 and 2019.

 

This was a 10% increase on the previous 2 years.

 

Over half of this waste was sent to recycling = 37.9 million tonnes, while 27% was sent to land fill =20.5 million tonnes.

 

The sector producing the most waste was manufacturing (15.9%)

Construction (15.8%)

Households (16.3%)

Electricity and water services (14.4%)

 

In this podcast I ask Rohan for his comments on these figures about our waste production.

 

Rohan says, 

  • our plastics waste has reduced – a small amount, as people are understanding more about how harmful it is. But

 

  • our organic (food) waste has increased and when this waste goes into land fill a lot of methane is produced and it has more impact on climate warming than CO2

 

Rohan says much more about these two forms of waste and the related problems they cause to the planet, but he recommends, it’s time we start examining the problems our organic waste is causing.

 

Rohan talks about what inspired him to change his business practices, essentially he recognised the contributing factors to the great waste surge in plastics and food waste in the 20th century.

 

I asked Rohan for his comments on how consumer knowledge of zero waste has influenced customer towards ethical shopping? He explains how zero waste and ethical shopping are 2 completely different concepts.

 

 

Those was the highlights of my interview with zero waste entrepreneur Rohan Singh. For those who’d like to hear more, I’ll have the full interview on the feed as a bonus episode in a week or two. 

 

Rohan was kind enough to share some important things about zero waste. And it’s his point about only buying what we need to reduce food waste that I’d like to look at in more detail. 

 

According to WWF Australia, [quote from their website] “Wasted food affects the environment but also our livelihoods and health. Environmentally, it accounts for about 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, 24% of the freshwater and 28 million tonnes of the fertilisers and pesticides used in agriculture. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has estimated the full cost of global food waste, including environmental, economic and social impacts, at US$2.6 trillion dollars annually.” [end quote]

 

This is an astonishing figure. We Australians are amongst the worst offenders. According to the Australian Government’s Dept of the Environment, we waste around 7.3 million tonnes of food, which equals about 300kg per person or one in five bags of groceries.

  • Food waste accounts for more than five per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • And this costs our economy a huge $20 billion each year.

 

Not only is reducing food waste good for the planet, but it’ll also save us heaps of money. As well as reducing environmental damage, avoiding and minimising food waste will help us to feed the world's growing population and contribute to a sustainable future for agriculture in Australia. Sounds great don’t you think?

 

So if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, only buy the food that you need. 

 

Rohan also says it’s possible to change habits and points to the fact that we have changed our collective mindset on plastics. He says many people are changing their mindset around zero waste by linking to other habits such as ethical food buying.

 

This also feeds into the principles of the circular economy which aim to design out waste and pollution. Just like Rohan’s business ethos of zero waste. 

 

I’ll be talking more about the circular economy in the next full podcast.

 

But for now, to help the environment and reduce our grocery bill consider reducing food waste and shopping at zero waste stores such as Graina.com.au

 

Rohan is indeed an example of those helping to change the country’s thinking on the climate emergency. A real climate paradigm shifter. Thanks for listening everyone!