Zero waste element seven: Recognize and address institutional and ideological barriers

As a visionary goal, zero waste aims to transcend and transform barriers. To do this, it is imperative to recognize and articulate all factors which can potentially limit or restrict the success of zero waste towards the goal of conserving resources and eliminating harm to the environment and human health. Throughout the processes of identifying barriers it is revealed that wasteful systems, attitudes and behaviours were not always dominant, signifying that alternatives to the status quo are not only possible, but they are entirely workable.

Institutional barriers are those formally organized groups such as government and industry that have established laws, rules or business practices that impede the implementation of one or more of the zero waste theory components. Ideological barriers are less identifiable as they are, by definition, built outside of the realm of consciousness (Kingwell, 1999). Described by author Mark Kingwell as the ideas and prejudices that comprise the basic assumptions of normal life, ideologies are made up of all the unquestioned preconceptions of the everyday (Kingwell, 1999, p. 173).

Barriers range from subsidies for virgin materials that negatively impact the recycled market to the prevalence of consumer culture within the developed world. Such barriers will present consistent challenges towards the full achievement of zero waste. To achieve success, visionary solutions must be utilized to circumvent or transform all barriers.

Check out discussion on some of the different barriers explored in urban bandit posts.

Zero waste elements
1. Waste is anything unusable, unwanted and unrecyclable
2. Zero waste is a visionary goal
3. Waste must be avoided, not minimized or reduced
4. Waste is evidence of poor design
5. Utilize the precautionary principle to eliminate potential toxins
6. Adhere to the principle of highest and best use
7. Recognize and address institutional and ideological barriers


Kingwell, Mark. (1999). Better Living: In pursuit of happiness from Plato to Prozac. Penguin Books. Canada.

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