Jack McQuibban: “We must show how zero waste policies will benefit each community specifically, using local data and context to make our arguments”
Jack Mc Quibban surely didn't want to be a leader, but he has become a leader. In his words, there is knowledge, a certain anger and a lot of passion. Defending a better world is his priority but he wants it to be our priority as well.
He is the Zero Waste Cities Programme Coordinator, responsible for supporting local municipalities across Europe, via the network of ZWE’s members, to design and implement effective zero waste strategies in their community. Currently, the programme works with over 400 municipalities that have committed to going zero waste. He helped create the world’s first-ever Zero Waste Cities Certification and regularly work with colleagues at MiZA to implement this across the continent. He also represents Europe on the Zero Waste International Alliance Board.
The Smart City Journal, in its chapter of the New Green Deal, has been able to get Jack to set a trend.
TSCJ: Zero waste is not only about decoupling economic activity from environmental destruction – it is, above all, about building resilience and natural capital for future generations. Tell me about the first three decisions that need to be made
JM.- Think before you buy. Do you really need that electronic item / new jumper / plastic straw with your drink? This is the most important step as it directly leads to fewer resources being consumed.
Second, if you do need to purchase any item, make sure it is repairable or reusable - at the very least it must be easily recyclable. Make sure you know the contents of what you are buying - what happens with each material after you have done with it, can they be reused for the same or a similar purpose? Does the item contain harmful or toxic chemicals which make it impossible to recycle or dangerous to our environment?
These are all important considerations before we purchase anything. The third decision would be on who you vote for - make sure you politically support the candidate or party which understands our climate emergency and is willing to break the status quo to try and solve the crisis we’re in
TSCJ.- Sometimes I have the feeling that we are only talking about political slogans. How can you convince people of the importance of a good waste policy?
JM.- People are busier than ever, and there is an overwhelming amount of information available today on any given topic. Therefore our communications to politicians, businesses and citizens must not only be factual but must be relatable.
We must show how zero waste policies will benefit each community specifically, using local data and context to make our arguments. This is the power of our Zero Waste Cities model. Yes, we have a framework that can be replicated across Europe, but it must also be tailored specifically to each local context, meaning each zero waste strategy is unique to each community.
This is how we convince people - through engaging them in the process and continuing to communicate how the zero waste strategy will change things, what it means for their everyday lives and why it's so important
TSCJ.- You represent Europe, whose level of awareness is possibly higher than other parts of the world. How can you convince people whose struggle for survival is the only important thing?
JM.- Living a zero waste lifestyle or providing zero waste options for citizens should not be just something for “wealthier” or more “industrialised” countries. With our partners at GAIA, we have active zero waste programmes across the world - from Chile to Indonesia and Ghana - showcasing the strength and diversity of the zero waste cites model.
Zero waste policies can actually help save money whilst obviously reducing the risk of pollution & exposure to chemicals for both human health and the environment. We must work hard to embed zero waste options within our everyday lives to make them accessible and convenient for everyone in society - this is only how we will achieve our vision of a zero-waste society.
TSCJ.- What are the real dangers if a radical change does not occur if we do not go to zero waste?
JM.- It can’t be said enough - if we continue with our current over-consumption then we will continue down a path that is unsustainable with our planet. The extraction and manufacturing of so many resources are destroying our planet’s biodiversity systems, whilst our throwaway society is just exacerbating climate change. If we don’t transition towards a zero-waste society around the world, but most importantly in Europe where we over-consume greatly, then we risk the future of our planet and humanity as a whole.
TSCJ.- I have the impression that you believe that cities (municipalities) are the great objective of this change in the ecosystem and, surely, there are clear bets in many of them. What advice could you give them from your organization?
JM.- There are so many benefits available to cities that start implementing a zero waste strategy with and for their local community.
My first piece of advice is not to be afraid of taking that first step - there are hundreds of successful examples from across Europe which show the value of becoming zero waste. If the commitment is there then the second important step is to collect data to understand where you are at currently - what policies already are implemented, how knowledgeable/aware are citizens about these topics, what waste is and is not being recycled, the volume of each kind of waste stream and what powers do the municipality have to implement certain policies. Having this data is key to understanding where you are at now so that you can better plan for and map out how to get to zero waste.
Once a municipality begins implementing its zero waste strategy, my advice would be to use the existing knowledge and expertise within the zero-waste cities programme to help guide their journey.
Wisdom never says one thing and nature another
(Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Roman poet, year 55 d.c)
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