We are 7+ billion people living on one planet. Our supplies of fresh water, fossil fuels, metals and other resources are limited…and dwindling: In the next 50 years, we’re likely to run out of silver, copper, and oil, just to name a few.
We need these resources to support our populations, yet we bury or burn more than two-thirds of our waste every day in the U.S., destroying the value of these materials.
Even the world’s biggest trash companies recognize the need to stop throwing away our resources and invest in a circular economy. There simply are not enough materials to go around.
Zero Waste helps us live within our planet’s means by using resources more efficiently so we have the raw materials to sustain future generations of humans and other species. Zero Waste is essential for building resilient communities that thrive on an equitable and healthy planet.
Zero Waste Prevents Resource Destruction
For every can of garbage you produce, there are 87 cans worth of materials that come from industries that make your products and packaging, including timber, agricultural, mining and petroleum waste.
When you recycle, you’re directly reducing not just your waste but all this industrial waste too:
- It takes 4.4 tons of trees to create one ton of paper pulp. Recycled paper reduces solid waste by 29%.
- Recycling one ton of aluminum reduces 2.7 tons of solid waste related to mining, extraction and virgin material manufacturing.
- Recycling one ton of plastic bottles conserves about 3.8 barrels of oil.
When we invest together in Zero Waste communities, we transform our global system of resource use. Zero Waste is the gateway to a circular economy — where materials are used and reused.
Zero Waste Saves Energy
Using recycled materials to make new products requires less energy than making products from trees, fossil fuels or metal ores. This means we use fewer fossil fuels including oil, natural gas, and coal, and these limited energy supplies are available for future generations or purposes.
The energy savings happen when the paper, glass, metal and plastic you and I recycled make their way back to a manufacturer to make new products.
Instead of using trees, oil, natural gas, and raw minerals to make new products, the manufacturers use our recycled products and save 30-90% of the energy they would use to manufacture from new feedstock.
See how much energy you save every time you recycle. And, see how much your community can reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through Zero Waste.
Zero Waste Saves Water
Zero Waste promotes water conservation and reduces water use by:
- Reducing food waste: 40% of U.S. food goes uneaten, which means we’re wasting all the water that was used to grow that food, and that amounts to 25% of our freshwater supplies.
- Recycling products and packaging: Making new products and packaging from recycled materials saves water. Virgin pulp and paper mills are the largest industrial users of water per ton. of product in the U.S. Recycled paper reduces wastewater generation by more than 50%. Recycling one ton of paper saves 7,000 gallons of water.
- Applying compost: Composting conserves water, reduces irrigation demands, and helps protect crops against drought and erosion.
Zero Waste Supports Healthy Ecosystems
Zero Waste is not just about keeping trees standing or reducing mining and drilling activities. When we recycle our materials and reduce our consumption, we’re promoting healthy ecosystems and preventing the destruction of natural habitats, which support humans and every species on Earth. Healthy ecosystems provide numerous benefits including clean water, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. These benefits and their support of the global community are valued at more than $125 trillion per year, which means healthy ecosystems are good for our environment and our economy.
More Benefits of Zero Waste
Resource conservation protects public health, ensuring clean air and water for present and future generations. Discover how Zero Waste invests in healthy people and healthy communities.learn more about Pollution and Health