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Zero Waste Week 2020: Q&A with Anna Pitt

With Zero Waste Week 2020 currently ongoing (7-11 September), Resource spoke to Anna Pitt from Zero Waste Week about this year’s food waste theme and societal attitudes towards zero waste.

What will this year's Zero Waste Week focus on?

This year we have chosen to focus on reducing our food waste. We were horrified at the images we were seeing of mountains of food going to waste at the beginning of lock down. There were shortages of certain foods and more people were cooking from scratch. Whatever our situation, we all have to eat and the fact that a third of all food produced around the world goes to waste is just plain wrong.

Anna PittAnother food waste fact is that 70 per cent of food waste in the UK is from within the home. So, with more of us spending more time at home, we felt it was a really good opportunity to address this major world problem.

How can people participate in Zero Waste Week?

People can follow Zero Waste Week on their favourite social media thanks to our wonderful Ambassadors. But the best way to make sure you don't miss any of the key messages is to sign up to Zero Waste Week on the home page.

How has interest and engagement in Zero Waste Week grown over the years?

Zero Waste Week started in 2008 with just 100 participants. Today it has grown to become a massive global campaign with a reach of around 50 million participants and coverage in all the national press as well as lots of local satellite campaigns.

Prior to Covid-19, did you feel there had been progress on consumer attitudes to waste reduction?

I certainly felt there was a huge improvement in the general attitude towards waste and resources. Rachelle [Strauss] and I both used to acknowledge that we were perhaps a bit 'weird' with our attitude to waste free living but at a meeting of 'experts' at the Guardian last October I remember voicing for the first time that I used to feel I was like 0.03 per cent of the population but these days I feel people like me are getting to be about 30 per cent. 'Zero heroes' are on the up. The great thing is big business is taking note.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted attitudes towards reusables and zero waste?

It may have felt like a little knock, but I think that once people make the connection with waste reduction and carbon footprint they can't go back.

What's the best way to engage people with the Zero Waste message?

The best way is to show that easy small changes make a big difference. It isn't about going Zero Waste over night. It is about gradually thinking more which leads to wasting less. We encourage people to think 'resources' rather than 'rubbish'.

Is going completely Zero Waste feasible?

Maybe not completely Zero Waste but 99 per cent is actually not that hard. I usually put my bin out just once a year.

In 10 years time, where do you hope we'll be in terms of attitudes to waste?

I think we will reach the tipping point quite soon. Well we will actually have to, because our consumption and waste simply isn't sustainable.

We are getting noticed and so business is responding. If we just keep nudging in the right direction we manage to implement a truly circular economy and learn to make the most of our precious resources.

You can find out more about Zero Waste Week 2020 on the dedicated website.