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What are the disadvantages of zero waste?
While going zero waste is a fantastic movement with tons of benefits, like almost anything, there are some annoying and inconvenient things related to it.
It’s good to be prepared and to know what to expect.
That’s why I collected a list with 9 disadvantages of zero waste & ideas on how to tackle each of them.
You can also find some of the pros of zero waste & a few other questions.
Now, let’s begin with the list.
Zero waste disadvantages:
The 9 cons of zero waste are –
- Zero waste products can be hard to find
- Zero waste can be more expensive
- Zero waste can be difficult for a large household
- Zero waste is time-consuming
- Shoping online can be tricky
- Not all products have a zero waste alternative
- Zero waste can be misleading
- Zero waste can cause anxiety
- Zero waste requires discipline
Let’s look at each of the cons, and see how to tackle them.
1. Zero waste products can be hard to find
The movement is growing, but there aren’t zero waste shops everywhere.
Sometimes you have to go to a few shops to find plastic-free & zero waste products. And sometimes you simply can’t find certain things, and you need to order them.
This can end up more expensive, time-consuming since you might have to go to a few shops, you need to spend additional time to find the specific items, and wait until your online order gets to you. Ah.
Whenever you look for something specific, do a quick online search, with the thing you need and then “near me”.
Check the Google map and see what will appear. Doing this, I often find nice stores and locations near me.
2. Zero waste can be more expensive
Sometimes, you have to pay more for unpackaged things. And that’s how it is.
Peanut butter in a plastic jug can be less expensive than one in a glass jar. Or a kilo of potatoes in a plastic bag compared to loose potatoes. Or toothpaste in plastic vs. with zero-waste tooth tablets.
Sometimes that sucks. The fair part is that usually, the price difference is not huge. But still, it can be annoying.
By being more thoughtful and observational, you will find better deals from different stores, and you will know where to buy cheaper, more sustainable, and package-free things.
3. Zero waste can be quite difficult for a large household
You can achieve quite a lot, no matter the circumstances, by avoiding plastic at all costs.
But that can be difficult, and harder for a large household, OR:
- if you live in a food desert
- you live in a city without bulk stores
- if you are on a strict budget
Start small, and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always choose the zero-waste option. Due to your situation, it can be hard to do everything, so try to focus on more simple and doable things.
This will make you feel good, and in the long run, you will make steady progress.
4. Zero waste is time-consuming
As mentioned above, often you will spend more time finding plastic-free products. Frequently that means you need to visit at least a few shops, so you can find most things you need.
Additionally, zero waste implies DIY a lot (or some) of your personal care products, and also food & meal preps. Even though it’s not hard, it is another time-consuming task.
To save time with groceries, find 2-3 shops, that have almost everything you need. Visit each of them once every few weeks, when you finish most things you buy from there. Also, buy in bulk, whenever possible, so you don’t have to go shopping too often.
To save time with cooking, try to meal prep once or twice per week, so you don’t have to cook every day.
As for the DIY solution, don’t try to do complicated things with a lot of ingredients. Find simple recipes, and start making the things one by one, when you have the time.
The DIY face masks, for example, are quite simple – they often require between 1-3 ingredients, and they are great for the skin. 🙂 So perhaps try with something like that.
5. Shopping online can be tricky
The zero waste movement is growing, but still, not everyone has a lot of options in their city. That means that often, we need to order our reusables.
This can be tricky since a lot of regular online shops will send the goods with a lot of wasteful packaging materials.
Find zero waste online shops near you. Near can mean in the same city, the same state/country, or even the neighboring one.
Then you can shop without worry, because these shops send their packages in recycled and recyclable materials, with no plastic.
6. Not all products have a zero waste alternative
Do you know the rice crackers covered in chocolate? Well, I can’t find them plastic-free. I even tried to make a similar version at home that failed tremendously.
The fact is that there are things you can’t find plastic-free. And I’m not talking just about food. Sometimes the only options you have is:
- to stop buying these
- to buy them with plastic
Now, I can live without rice crackers. But there are certain things that I cannot live without, like my laptop, or other items that will contain plastic.
The point is to find alternatives to the things that have a plastic-free/zero-waste version. Unfortunately, it is not possible for everything.
7. Zero waste can be misleading
The “zero” in zero waste is a bit misleading since we can’t truly achieve it.
If you shop only from bulk stores in your containers, the bulk items came in the shop in a huge plastic bag (most of the time).
Once I asked the owner of a zero waste store if they have a better alternative than plastic. He said that they tried packing the items in paper bags, but they were breaking. Also, for hygiene purposes, they usually can’t reuse plastic bags.
Another thing is that you buy products in paper or glass packaging, then they still go to your container and then are sent to (hopefully) be recycled.
You see, with time and effort, we can only go pretty close to ZERO waste. But that’s the world we live in today, and we can try our best in the current situation.
Try to avoid plastic and waste in general, but if you have to buy things wrapped in plastic, don’t beat yourself up.
Also, don’t compare your journey with others – zero waste will look different to every person. Everyone has an individual approach and different options than yours. Just focus on doing your best!
8. Zero waste can cause anxiety
Thinking about the impacts of plastic waste, climate change, or other ecological disasters can lead to worrying, fear, helplessness, and other overwhelming feelings.
This is also called eco-anxiety (yep – it’s a real term) and it is described as a chronic fear of environmental doom.
Significant changes don’t happen overnight. Remember that! You need to work hard towards reducing your waste, and it will take time.
Feeling anxious by seeing all the plastic around you won’t do any good. The best thing you can do is to focus on your own actions.
To make a more significant change, you can always try to talk with your closest ones about the topic, and encourage them to start their low waste journey.
9. Zero waste requires discipline
Living a sustainable life requires discipline.
It is about learning how to resist things, like fast fashion, and how to mindfully shop in general – things like food, clothing, and electronics.
It also requires you to (always) remember to bring your reusable with you.
Probably you will forget them a few times before you make a habit of taking them. But that’s a part of the journey, too.
You need to focus on long-lasting, durable items, instead of cheap things, that are designed to be used for a short period.
Most times, that means you need to spend a bit more initially, but then you don’t have to worry and buy things over and over.
It also means that you need to work on creating a habit of carrying with you a few essentials, like a reusable bag, water bottle, coffee mug, etc.
BONUS – 10. Zero waste should be the opposite of consumerism
The point of zero waste is to use things as long as possible. To recreate and reuse items.
It is not about buying new stuff often, without the real need. To purchase secondhand.
Yet, more and more brands, products, and different special zero waste items are showing up. And honestly, a lot of these things aren’t necessary.
Honestly, it can be hard to resist. For example, I wasn’t a fan of reusable straws, I consider them as an unnecessary item (90% of the time).
But I got a few metal ones anyway. I thought “why not? it’s fun to drink my smoothies with it”. Ehh… 😀
You need to be mindful, and to purchase things that you truly need & you know you will use them.
Try not to fall for the new and shiny zero waste items that you THINK you need.
Most times, you can live without these trendy items.
Even if it happens (like me with the straws), at least have a good reason to get whatever you think you need, and make sure to use it!
What are the zero waste benefits?
Zero waste has many pros, too! Some of them are:
- Zero waste perceives water, energy and nonrenewable resources
- Zero waste supports circular economy (practices like upcycling, borrowing, repairing & reusing)
- Zero waste CAN be cheaper, too! (think bulk shops, no more meaninless shopping, second-hand items, etc)
- Zero waste prevents food waste
- Zero waste reduces pollution and supports the reduction of global warming
- Positive and rewarding feeling for trying your pest to preserve the environment
Why is zero waste impossible?
We need a circular service-oriented economy – a system in which we would buy nothing that can’t be either reused, composted, or recycled.
Zero waste is practically not possible because we live in a linear consumption-driven economy.
We use things for a while, or sometimes just once (single-use items), and then we throw them away.
However, producing close to zero waste is possible when we focus our efforts at the 5R’s zero waste:
- Refusing stuff we don’t need
- Reducing waste production & minimizing the things we need
- Reusing anything we can
- Rot a.k.a composting what we can
- Recycling and upcycling
Does zero waste make a difference?
Zero waste can make a difference, and it offers many benefits to communities and the Earth.
We may not get rid of all mines and landfills, but zero waste can reduce pollution, preserve resources and energy, and lead to a mindful and happier life.
There are hundreds of things we can do as individuals, that will make a difference in the long run.
What would happen if everyone went zero waste?
What if we start making our food from scratch, buy sustainably made clothing, and reusing and recycling ALL materials? Imagine if we limited everyone’s trash to one jar per year?
This would result in cleaner water, cleaner air, and more trees. We would have more opulent gardens because of composting.
Additionally, the economy has to change, since we wouldn’t need single-use items anymore. This would lower the demand for landfill space, as less trash would be created.
Another thing is that we’d mine fewer metals for use in high-tech items like smartphones.
All of this can also result in wanting less materialistic STUFF, and happier life, in general.
Sounds great, right?
Zero waste can be inconvenient, stressful, and more expensive. It requires time, planning, and effort.
However, it is undeniable that it is also a fantastic movement that promotes wasting less and living in harmony with our planet.
It has some cons, but the pros are outstanding and completely worth all the hustle! Do you agree? 🙂
Also, do you think I forgot to mention any other disadvantage of zero waste?
Feel free to add it in the comments below, or in the Almost Zero Waste Facebook Group.