The aim of the Zero Waste purchasing guidelines is consumer education, so that by changing what goes into shopping baskets, we put pressure on producers to design the negatives out of our purchases, and to design in a more eco sensitive and eco-mimetic way to eliminate waste, and if there must be waste for it to be re-useable as a resource in a sustainable way.
Consumer pressure really works. I have discussed previously how one of the greenest industries in South
Africa is the hospitality industry. People in the industry openly say it is consumer pressure that forces them to be green. The customers are demanding and often come from countries where there is a huge waste problem, due to their massive levels of consumption, as well as a higher level of environmental education.
The Zero Waste purchasing guidelines steer the buyer away from products with an endpoint in the waste bin, and thus in incineration or landfills, and away from plastic, toxic chemicals and electricity and water wasting processes. The guidelines will help you exclude and find replacements for the offensive products. The summary I have made is only a fraction of the information in the original guide, massively simplified. Its best to look it up.
Is the product adequately labelled, as to the ingredients, including whether these are genetically modified.
Find out if the product or packaging contains chemicals or toxins, or doubtfull substances. There are over 700,000 chemicals in production and there is little safety information except on a few thousand of these. Find out if a particular chemical or packaging is biodegradable and how, and what the byproducts of decomposition are.
Determine what percentage of the purchase is actually the product you want, for example if it is mostly water you are saving packaging by buying a concentrate.
Can the disposable portion be replaced or excluded
Does it use a lot of water (all bleaching and dying does)
Children and babies in the womb are especially vulnerable to environmental toxins, because of their rapid development. There will be more about this in a future article on the toxicity problem of plastic.
Zero waste Africa aims to further consumer education on waste, to support the complete elimination of all waste, to promote and fund research on waste for the public good,
and promote sustainable resource management in accordance with the best environmental options.
The link to the original text of the Zero Waste consumer guidelines is below, and I think its important to see its full wording and explanations, which I’m not able to quote here.