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Are there any disadvantages of zero waste?
The short answer is yes. Going zero waste is a fantastic movement with tons of benefits.
However, like almost anything, zero waste living has some disadvantages.
Sometimes, it can be inconvenient, stressful, and more expensive. It requires time, planning, and effort.
It’s good to be prepared and to know what to expect.
That’s why we will observe 11 disadvantages of zero waste and how to tackle each of them.
You can also find a FAQ section in the end.
11 disadvantages of zero waste:
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 the 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 acceptable 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
You can achieve quite a lot, no matter the circumstances, by avoiding plastic at all costs. But that can be difficult, and harder, if:
- if you have a large household
- 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. Always need to keep reusables on you
Every time I forget my reusables, I need them.
And most times, when I have them, I don’t need them.
This can be quite frustrating, but it just teaches you to bring your reusables with you. Always.
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.
That doesn’t mean you need to have a huge bag full of zero waste reusables. But just make sure to have the essentials – reusable bag(s), water bottle, maybe a straw, or a coffee mug.
5. Zero waste is time-consuming
As mentioned above, often you will spend more time to find 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 to 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.
6. 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.
7. Not all products have a zero-waste alternative
Do you know the rice crackers covered in chocolate? Well, you can’t find them plastic-free. And 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.
8. 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 a 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 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 individual approach and different options than yours. Just focus on doing your best!
9. Zero waste can make cause anxiety at times
Eco-anxiety is a real term! It is described as a chronic fear of environmental doom.
Let me give you a simple example:
I go to the supermarket and see everyone around me buying items in plastic, taking thin plastic bags for their veggies/fruits, and putting everything in a huge plastic bag in the end.
I start thinking, “What’s the point of trying to be zero waste” and “Am I even making a difference.”
Sometimes, it can lead to even stronger feelings, such as helplessness and fear about your future.
Significant changes don’t happen overnight. We need to work hard towards reducing our waste and focus on our own journeys.
Instead of feeling anxious by seeing all the plastic on the street – you can go and clean it up.
Or when you shop, you can start a friendly conversation with the person, and maybe mention that we should collectively work against the plastic issue in the world.
Sometimes it takes that much – just a thought to cause curiosity or awareness.
Plus, to make a more significant change, you can talk with your closest ones about the topic, and help them to start their low waste journey. That’s the beauty of the ripple effect. 🙂
10. 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.
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.
11. 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.
Yet, there are more and more brands, products, and different special zero waste items, that aren’t entirely necessary, but people still tend to buy them.
And to be honest, it happened to me, too.
I wasn’t a fan of reusable straws, I consider them as an unnecessary item (90% of the time – it is useful to mix your cocktail with it when you are out 😀 ).
But I got some –
- I also realized that when I’m out, and I order a drink, it is way easier to show them my straw and to say that I have one, so they don’t need to bring me a plastic one (otherwise, they tend to forget)
- Also – okay, it’s just fun to drink my smoothies with it
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, and there is a chance that you already have a similar thing at home that you can 1) recreate (DIY) or 2) reuse.
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!
Disadvantages of zero waste - FAQ:
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 currently 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 as close to zero waste is possible when we focus our efforts:
- to minimize waste production
- reducing the things we need
- reusing and upcycling anything we can
- refusing stuff, we don’t need
- and composting what we can
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 are the zero waste benefits?
We went through the disadvantages of zero waste, but what are the benefits? Some of them are:
- Zero waste perceives water, energy and nonrenewable resources
- Zero waste supports circular economy practices like upcycling, borrowing, repairing, reselling and reusing things
- Zero waste CAN be cheaper, too! Often, things bought in bulk will have a lower cost. Additionally, zero waste reduces meaningless shopping and encourages buying items second-hand
- Zero waste prevents food waste
- Zero waste enhances your creative mind – it encourages to DIY things, to use whatever you have and cook nice meals, and to repair and upcycle items!
- Zero waste reduces pollution and supports the reduction of global warming!
- As there is eco-anxiety, there is also a positive and rewarding feeling, that will make you feel incredibly good for doing things to preserve our environment
These are JUST a few of the benefits! Find more here:
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 is a fantastic movement that promotes living in harmony with our planet.
It has some cons, but the pros are outstanding and completely worth all the hustle! Do you agree? 🙂