#37 The Zero Waste Movement

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To exit from the use-and-throw mindset, we must decolonise our minds, lifestyles and hearts by putting the environment and indigenous knowledge first 

– ep 37

The last two decades have been momentous for environmental sustainability; one such ‘success’ story has been the Zero Waste movement that rose to fame during the 2010s. Whilst zero waste may feel like a great achievement in our highly urbanised and generally wasteful society, the recent acceptance of the concept should instead ring alarm bells at the deterioration of our ecosystems as nations strive for economic growth through unsustainable means.

Zero Waste is an integral part of ecological stability, achieved by all species except the modern human. The practice is by no means contemporary, rather an ancient form of waste management that allowed us to evolve successfully, yet over time we distanced from our roles as environmental stewards and grew hungry for profitable gain. Now we are bearing the consequences of our actions, and even then it’s the ones that have negligible impact on environmental degradation that face the worst impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

In order for us to restore our natural environment, we need to urgently shift to a circular economy that restricts the manufacture of virgin materials, increases dependency on recycled materials and reusing goods when possible, slowing consumption rates and prioritising the protection of our ecosystems. However, to do that we must decolonise our systems by reconnecting to our pre-colonial histories rich in environmental protection by incorporating indigenous conservation and waste management into urban development policy frameworks, all of which is achievable if prioritised over unsustainable economic growth.

This episode gives real life examples of the application of Zero Waste and ways in which urban spaces, particularly in developed regions, can shift to a circular economy to better manage our waste and protect our environment.

Episode Structure:

  • Rise of the modern Zero Waste movement
  • Pre-colonial history of practicing zero waste with examples e.g. Aztec civilisation, Hinduism, ancient Japan and Buddhism
  • Rise of colonialism and imperialism brought in unsustainable waste and resource management, including the linear economic model, particularly in countries that would practice zero waste extensively in the past
  • Acknowledgement of not all indigenous practices being able to be replicated within highly urbanised environments, therefore practices need to be altered accordingly
  • 5 key ways urban regions can work towards achieving zero waste, as identified by Imperial College London
  • Successful examples of the application of indigenous practices within waste management strategies in developing countries


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