Humans are wasteful and for some reasons, that’s ok
Since the zero waste movement began, people have begun to reduce their waste as much as possible, some even store their waste in jars (why do people do this when they can be put to better use?!) but what a lot of people don’t seem to talk about is the necessary waste.
If I was to be extra pedantic I could point out that people as animal beings naturally produce waste – as you more than likely know we produce: faecal waste, sweat, urine and gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen sulphide.
These are a given of course and some of it can be used added to compost but this isn’t my point.
What you never seem to see in people’s ‘trash jars’ and why you shouldn’t feel guilty
– Medical waste
We all at some point in our lives, even from the moment we are born, we produce medical waste and almost half of all adults take prescription drugs in the UK – this is something that is never mentioned by the ‘holier than now’ zero wasters.
Yes it’s unhygienic for a lot of the waste to store, such as needles for vaccinations we’ve received or gauzes and bandages for when we’ve hurt ourselves. From home though, if we have medicines we need to take then this can add up to a lot of waste over the years.
Diabetes needles and insulin packets, inhalers, medicine blister packs, plastic bottles and tubes of creams alongside countless other medicine containers…
It all adds up and this is perfectly fine, yet, I’ve seen more and more people recently, mention how they’ve stopped taking medicines and counted this as a #zerowastewin. This isn’t ok.
If you have been prescribed these by a doctor who has studied for years and wants you to be better, take them. Your health and well-being comes above everything else.
If you have come off prescriptions healthily then congratulations, but please don’t count it as a contributor to living more zero waste, it’s harmful and unfair to those of us who still rely on them but reduce waste wherever possible.
I personally have to take two pills for the rest of my life, that I’ve had to take since I was 19 when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. This means on average, about 240 blister packs over the last 10 years of waste for this medical condition alone. Then add in the fact I’ve had 3 children in that time (not exactly environmentally friendly I know), all born via c-section which meant a lot more medicines and other related medical waste.
To add to my medical waste, I also have to use creams for contact dermatitis prescribed in plastic tubes, and following a recent ‘blip’ shall we say, I’ve been prescribed more medicines to take until I’m stable again. I’ve been living with mental health problems since a young age and medicated on/off since aged 15, then diagnosed correctly with BPD also known as EUPD since I was 24 and have been relatively stable and off medication from aged 26 until recently.
My doctor prescribed a new bunch of medicines to add to my daily intake and I’m now on the mend but, will I feel guilty? Not one bit. It’s necessary for me to take these for me to be better for myself and for my family. If I had a trash jar I’d put my blister packs and bottles in there but I don’t, I have better uses for jars. Please don’t ever feel bad for this type of waste or give up your medicine unless your doctor gives you the ok.
I was extremely thankful for the number of messages I received yesterday when I posted on our Instagram stories about my mental illness and medications I have to take. It’s not only important to talk about this necessary waste, but also the reasons for it too. It’s also why I felt it important to include this part in this blog post.
The Living life zero waster
What else you won’t see in ‘trash jars’ is the waste produced by just living life. These can include, and of course not limited to:
- used condoms and their wrappers
- the empty packet of crisps or chocolate wrapper they bought when they just wanted to ‘treat themselves’ after a rubbish day (you can however ecobrick these)
- emissions from their flights around the world or car from their road trip (often forgotten about)
- the ripped pair of lacy underwear from a raunchy night
- resources used to create the perfect Instagram shot of a zero waste pantry cupboard (unless the jars are all repurposed of course)
- the tea bags from visits to their grannies house who doesn’t stock loose tea in her house (and the biscuit wrappers from the inevitable biscuit tin that comes out every time).
Do what you can
There is a whole host of things that aren’t put in these ‘trash jars’ and they’re not necessary waste but, it’s still the waste we as humans produce. Could we reduce these? Maybe, but at what point? Would you give up your mental well-being for reducing waste?
So many people on Instagram portray a ‘perfect zero waste lifestyle’ which can either be really inspiring or really disheartening and place people on a guilt trip. A big part of the problem is lack of accessibility and affordability when it comes to shopping zero waste, although this is something we aim to tackle here at Society Zero.
Another bit to consider is that zero waste shops, as much as we can, we reduce our own waste too but even buying in bulk from some providers still comes with plastic and this is without taking into account the transporting. Albeit in smaller amounts of waste because we buy in large/bulk quantities but quite simply, zero isn’t zero as Polly at Green Indy Blog rightly puts it.
If you are ready to start your journey to living more zero-waste, there are a lot of things you can do to still reduce what you produce, but above all, please don’t feel guilty about looking after your mental and physical health and put them first and foremost. If you are inspired by jars of trash then by all means use it for inspiration for what to aspire to but don’t let it make you feel guilty.
What have you been able to reduce waste wise despite these? We would like to raise the awareness of the benefits to living more zero waste as well as real life or reality with living zero waste.
Please share with us your #zerowastereallifesz photos using the hashtag.
We can help share with other people the reality that nobody is perfect but we can still do something.