why you'll never see our trash jar
I feel like trash jars are the instant image that comes to mind when people picture zero waste living. There are so many stereotypes people have when you say zero waste, they immediately make excuses for why they can't do it themselves; they work full time so "don't have time to" or they are "too old" and can't change their habits, the list goes on and on. Zero waste is not as diverse a community as some, due to the role privilege plays in environmental activism, but it's still more diverse than people realise. Though trash auditing is essential to lowering your waste, and the pride you can feel when seeing how little trash you produce is rewarding, I don't think trash jars are always beneficial to invite others to join the community. Just as with these stereotypes, as soon as people see a trash jar they think, well I can't do that, they can only because of x y and z. We audit our trash and keep our landfill waste, but we are never going to show you our trash jar, and here's why.
I have nothing against people that keep a trash jar and show it, everyone may do as they please, and for some they can have a positive impact. But I always think it is good to be aware of both the positive and negative sides of anything, and I think trash jars can give off the wrong impression of what zero waste is. It perpetuates the idea that if you can't fit all your trash into a tiny jar you aren't zero waste. Which is not the case. Zero waste is a movement, anyone can be a part of it, on any part of their journey, and it's okay if you can't fit all your trash into a tiny jar. If showing your trash jar is helpful and motivates you then that's great, but I don't think it should be the poster image of what a zero waste lifestyle looks like. Either way, the reality is that jar isn't even an accurate representation of the trash created by any one person.
Zero waste began as an industrial term to promote a circular economy, but we still currently live in a linear economy. This means that though the term zero waste has been applied to the home, it is impossible. When we live in a circular economy this will be different, but for the moment we don't. What this means is that a trash jar doesn't take into account all the trash involved upstream. Case in point: we buy all our fruits from the market, in our own produce bags, so yeah we don't use any plastic, but if we were to put all the trash involved in those fruits arriving at our market, it certainly wouldn't be able to fit into a jar. There is so much trash created all throughout the process of creating an item to it ending up in your home. This doesn't mean that zero waste is worth nothing (or that your efforts to fit your waste into a jar is either); sure my market may create a lot of trash, but I also show that I am making a conscious decision to avoid it as much as I can, and that is worth something. Being zero waste isn't about actually creating zero trash, it is at the heart of being an activist, showing what you believe in, and promoting the type of world you want to live in. So go ahead, show your trash jar, but keep in mind the elements of sustainability it doesn't take into account, not only upstream trash but also abstract waste, and other parts of sustainability. This community is for everyone, no matter how much trash they throw out, and we can all help each other and grow off each other towards the common goal of living lighter on this planet.
And that, is why you'll never see our trash jar.