Magda Cebrián: “Recycling has already been proven to be insufficient, we must go further”

Zero Waste, a lifestyle and a way of understanding our consumption, is a movement that is increasingly attracting more people. It involves living in accordance with a series of responsible habits that allow us to notably reduce the waste that we generate.

Withfor

3 December 2019 |

To delve deeper into its philosophy, we spoke to Magda Cebrián and Martí Morató, founders of the GoZeroWaste App, an application that helps us to find shops with zero waste practices and also to suggest challenges in order to acquire habits that help our planet.

– On average we generate 1.2 kg of rubbish a day, are we the throwaway generation?

– Yes, that is where we are coming from and a very important change is necessary both on an individual and a corporate level. We must advance towards the model of a circular economy, imitating nature and its processes until we reach the point at which the concept of waste no longer exists because everything is considered a resource. There are three Rs that we have been hearing about for a long time: reduce, reuse and recycle, but for decades the emphasis has been on recycling, when really this is at the end of the chain. What we should prioritise is reuse and reduce, in order to extend the life of the resources to the maximum. Recycling has already been proven to be insufficient, we must go further.

– How can we manage to raise public awareness? It appears that we haven’t even been able to recycle properly

– Recycling effectively is very difficult, it’s confusing. Businesses put thousands of products on the market, made with thousands of different types of packaging and you, the end user, has to know where everything goes. We maintain that the consumer has a responsibility, but the initial responsibility lies with the business, that when designing a product should give thought to its entire cycle. If instead of using thirty types of packaging we only had ten, we would know perfectly well how to recycle them.

– Is it more expensive to do it this way?

– For people who try to consume without generating waste, the first thing they find is that it costs more, but as with everything, it’s a learning process. At first it will cost you more, but with time you will know where to buy different things, and realise that buying in bulk works out better because you can make savings for large quantities… but its more than that. The Zero Waste movement also proposes buying less, but of higher quality.

– Tell us a little bit about the Go Zero Waste application

– A little over a year ago we tried to carry out an exercise: to do a weekly shop and go home without any plastic. We found that for fruit, vegetables, meat, fish… In short, fresh food, it was relatively easy because we could use our own Tupperware or bags. However, the same wasn’t the case with other products, like detergent in bulk and natural cosmetics… So we thought, how could we make things easier for people who want to shop like this? And we created the GoZeroWasteApp application.

The application has a part that shows you a map where you can find, by area or by product, the establishments that have what you are looking for… Alongside this the application has a section of challenges, because there are habits that are also very important, like always bringing a bottle of water with you or a reusable bag… simple acts.

– Has it been well received?

– Yes, we are happy because people who want to practice Zero Waste say that the App has helped them and we are about to release a second version that improves on some aspects. But our real challenge is to reach consumers at a large scale.  We want the people who go to large shopping centres and don’t know what Zero Waste is to be able to make this change.

There is a social and emotional background to this movement. We are a materialistic society. The movement goes against this way of living

– We live in a materialistic society, based on production. Really, moving in another direction is a big challenge but we are finding that models based on reutilisation can also be profitable.  For example, most cleaning products are 80% water that is mixed with chemicals. Imagine if the business could sell a small pot of just the concentrated chemical and you could use it to make the cleaning product yourself. This is beneficial for the consumer but also for the business that can reduce costs of packaging, storage and transport. These are the types of solutions that we must come up with, develop and promote.  

– What role should the administration adopt with regard to this change in the consumer model?

– They have a key role, and furthermore it’s in their interest. Western countries keep waste that can be recycled and revalorized; those that don’t, send it to developing countries or countries who buy it from them. Well, last year China stopped accepting this low value plastics. Now Europe can’t get rid of this waste and the additional associated costs that go with it so we need to find an alternative 

– How do you see the future?

– I’m an optimist, but I also think that we are running late. For some time now, the scientific community and the UN have warned us that the effects of climate change may become irreversible, that there will many conflicts caused by the fight for resources and sadly that the poorest countries will be the first to be affected.

But I also see that the new generations are beginning to act; with them comes an important decision-making power capable of driving change. Consumer power will force businesses to create new products and sustainable means of consumption, it’s a wheel.

– What will be the next steps for the movement?

I think that Zero Waste will become another layer of sustainable consumption. We already have recycling, local shopping, the consumption of ecological products… different areas of responsible consumption that have become established as a part of our lives thanks to better information. Opening people’s eyes raises awareness and makes society react. We must act immediately.

It is the position of the consumers that Magda mentions that puts pressure on businesses and will continue to do so until they end up adopting increased sustainability and waste reduction as an integral part of their company policies. That is why, at Withfor, we continue to promote alternatives in order to encourage from a business position the creation of positive value for society, in an honest responsible way not just for our clients, but also for communities and the environment.

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