As previously posted Greenomics, a Sustainable Business Consultancy, has engaged in a Canada Wide Study of the socio-economic impacts of pursuing Zero Waste. While the environmental benefits of Zero Waste are well know, preliminary findings suggest there is also a significant opportunity to improve social well-being while stimulating the economy. This creates a triple win for communities by realizing robust environmental, social, and economic benefits. Further, it appears that the closer the management of local Zero Waste programs are conducted on a local scale the greater the results.
How Zero Waste (ZW) Can Improve Social Well Being
The social benefits of pursuing Zero Waste are only limited by a community’s efforts in leveraging the potential. Three key areas include social engagement for all community members including the disadvantaged through the creation of a social hub, and generating cultural opportunities.
- ZW provides multiple job levels that include opportunities for those who have employment challenges. These jobs include entrepreneurial, managerial, custodial and skilled labour. People with learning or physical challenges are provided with the opportunity to contribute, earn money, and build their confidence.
- ZW serves as a Community Hub where neighbours meet one another while learning of Zero Waste successes through educational social programs. This includes information and updates on Zero Waste programs, quantitative data on the community’s success in achieving their Zero Waste goals, experiential educational opportunities, and the ability to contributing to making the world a better place. Community pride is enhanced.
- Diverted materials are kept within the community and activities using these materials can be created that let people express themselves in a creatively social way. This includes events such as fashion shows, various racing events, arts programs, and other cultural activities.
How Zero Waste Stimulates the Economy
By keeping the materials that used to be buried in garbage dumps, opportunities and associated job creation abound. Three key areas for economic stimulation in local communities include resource preparation, new products, and refurbishing.
- Sorting and preparing materials. Reclaimed material is sorted and prepared for reuse and then made available to manufacturers for purchasing, thus creating local jobs that bring money into a community that would otherwise not be realized.
- Manufacturing opportunities. Communities can start manufacturing businesses from the material diverted from garbage dumps. For example, 50% of residential waste is compostable materials thus providing the feedstock for composting to create rich soil that can be sold to gardeners and other others to enrich their soil.
- Refurbishing. Refurbishing is a well established business that is a significant contributor to the economy, but may not be recognized as such. Renovating one’s home or business is considered refurbishing for examples. The materials that can be diverted, such as doors, can be refurbished and sold thus creating jobs and revenue.
Zero Waste Creates Significant New Jobs
Zero Waste programs will eventually starve out garbage dumps and waste incinerators, and those jobs supporting those activities will be eliminated. However, the number of jobs created through Zero Waste initiatives will replace those jobs and add a significant number more. Our preliminary analysis suggests:
If Canada achieves 75% diversion, 19,000 jobs will be lost in the current waste management industry. However, these jobs will be replaced by approximately 90,000 new jobs in the waste diversion sector for a net gain of 71,000 jobs nationally.
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