So, what is Zero Waste?
Can this be applied to the home building and renovation process?
Zero Waste is a movement and lifestyle that aims to reduce our negative environmental impact on the planet. This is achieved by limiting the amount we throw away and looks at other options instead.
What is Waste?
Waste is essentially defined by anything that cannot be reused/repurposed or recycled and would end up in the landfill or potentially in the ocean.
We have all started to hear the news recently about the expectation, that if nothing were to change, there would be more plastic in the oceans than fish.
The 5 R’s
The first action is to Refuse things you do not need. A free item given away with purchase, will you actually use it? Reduce the amount of waste you use – This is pretty much the goal. Reuse things! Anything can be reused, get creative. Repair, this is essential in our throw away economy. Repair that pair of jeans, that bag strap that broke or that computer that is running slow. You don’t necessarily have to be able to do this yourself, there are Repair Cafe’s popping up over the country and many repair agents of many different things available. Lastly is Recycle and Rot.
Yes, recycling is last. If you reduce the amount of soda you drink you will have less plastic bottles to recycle (or consider a SodaStream and Barkers cordials if you are hooked on fizzy). Drinking tap water rather than bottled is possibly the easiest reduction we can make in NZ. We are now beginning to understand since China stopped taking our waste, that recycling is not the answer and is no longer viable.
Governments around the world have started to finally act, but unfortunately, we cannot rely on their slow processes of getting policies and laws passed.
It is really up to us, as the consumers to put our money to the companies that align with a positive environmental impact.
Applying a zero-waste lifestyle to a build can be very difficult if standard building practices are applied. It isn’t just the building waste, but all the packaging building materials and equipment come in.
Building Waste – Renovation
This can apply to a renovation where old building materials are removed. This is by no means a comprehensive list of materials and what you can do with them, as there are many building materials from over the years.
Timber is easily reused or recycled. Native timber is very much sought after and can easily be sold on if you have no new purpose for it.
Old wall linings such as old Gib and hardboard can be more difficult. Hardboard (wood/glue mix) used many chemicals to make, so cannot be burnt and is no longer used in the current building code. If you find another use for this, let me know!
For Gib you can remove the wallpaper and break it up for the garden.
Wallpaper is not exactly able to be repurposed, as it tends to come apart when removed. If it is possible, consider painting over it instead.
Old single glazed windows can be retrofitted for double glazing. Or if that is not an option, they can be repurposed for a greenhouse/hothouse garden shed. There is a good second-hand market for these.
Aligning with a builder and other tradespeople who will help you save materials from the landfill will help you achieve a lesser impact.
A great way to do this is to not hire a skip. This instantly makes you not able to just dump everything and actually think about every item being thrown away.
A zero waste renovation can actually help you to save money. As now you are looking at every removed material and its future use.
Re-purposing an old coffee table into a vanity for example.
Reusing the old wall timber framing to construct something new.
Using the chipped and removed tiles at the bottom of plant pots for better drainage.
Using an old bathtub as either an outdoor spa or a fish pond. I will share more of these type of projects as I create them.
I hope that having this information in the back of your mind as you go into a home renovation or build, will help you make more conscious choices.