Making Use of Definitions

We are rarely free to pursue the logical concepts and clear thinking of the Zero Waste strategy. Instead we are forced to swim in the mainstream sea where inefficiency is seen as a way to make profit and destruction of resources is considered good. On these pages, we take a look at some of the particular ways that inefficiency and destruction are motivated.

Do you assume that waste always has to be generated? Are you a victim of the “waste mentality”?

Not to worry – everyone is! But how would you like some medicine for your condition? Follow me down this path to see some implications of too much faith in wasting.



  1.  That which is produced for which the owner has no use. This definition requires that there be a defined owner. A mere handler, with no ownership attitude is not an owner (see next definition). An owner who discovers a use converts a waste into a product. Wasteness is not an intrinsic quality of any goods but is an attitude of the owner.
  2. Society as a whole, or a part of it, can appear as an owner in absentia and decree that some goods do or do not have a use. Most importantly, this happens when goods are substandard or wastefully produced and society decrees that the goods in question are an affront to society and useless to the public, even though the nominal or capitalist owner feels otherwise. Under this term, the ability to sell and make a profit from given goods is to be considered an aberration, not an argument against wasteness.


  1. A peculiar state of waste goods which have no defined owner but are under the mere, default control of a handler without respect for such goods and without the possibility of treating them beneficially. When passing through this state, goods are normally severely degraded by mixing, negligence, weathering, spilling etc.  However, any goods which subsequently acquire an owner who has a use for them, cease to be waste or garbage.


  1. An approach to the complete life cycle of any created goods (extracted, grown, manufactured etc.) which seeks to reuse them over and over for essentially the same purpose. Ideally, such goods should be used forever to satisfy the designation of ZERO but in practice a shorter time is subsituted. A common lifetime used is one hundred years.


  1. Design is the process of conceptualizing and imagining goods which can then be made according to that design. Redesigning is the process of going back to the design process to improve it. The common application is to improve an initial design for a short life and early discard, relying on garbage dumps to receive the deteriorated goods. Redesign is usually the process of changing the design to make the goods more robust and to include designed fates for all the events that may happen to those goods (e.g. disassembly, breakage, obsolescence) so that they may fall under the Zero Waste definition above.


  1. Function is defined for an object which is used. The function is the intended purpose of that object or set of objects, which can be intellectual objects such as plans or natural objects such as land. Invariably, the intended future function is the reason why goods are produced, purchased or seized.
  2. A function is most often a form of usage for the benefit of the owner. A maker may designate sale as a function while the buyer will then have another function in mind.
  3. An object may have many functions for one owner or different functions in the minds of many potential owners.
  4. For a more nuanced view of function, see Auster


  1.  This synonym for “dump” was invented by the garbage industry in the 1970’s and 80’s to get rid of the word dump, which sounds too much like what it is, namely a smelly, disorganized unmanaged collection of no longer wanted goods. Landfill sounds much more managed and appealing. Somehow the garbage kings managed to get the public talking about landfills instead of dump. I would never use this word whose only purpose is to make garbage more attractive.