The world would not exist without waste

Some people like to say that ‘nature does not produce waste’.  I really don’t understand this sentiment.

The reasons why I find this mindset confusing are as follows:  

  1. Humans are part of nature, everything on earth is part of nature and therefore if humans produce waste then nature ‘produces’ waste
  2. Nature (in the traditional sense of trees and plants) produces waste all the time, you simply have to look outside the window

To consider this topic from a different angle I would encourage you to consider the following questions: 

  • What would the world be like without natural ‘waste’?
  • Where would we be without all those leaves that were wasted as they fell from the trees? 
  • What would society look like today if all of those dead microscopic plants and animals that once lived in the ocean were used by another creature instead of being ‘wasted’ and buried for millions of years? (Essentially I am asking what would the world be like without oil)

Of course I am being facetious with these questions but for good reason.  

The people who often describe nature as ‘waste-less’ are implying that every molecule of matter produced by nature has a purpose and is never considered to be waste if it eventually fulfills some yet-unknown purpose.  

But if that is the case then surely we, as humans, are no different with our waste practices? 

Could the waste that we inter into landfills today one day become the ‘oil’ of the future? (A fuel source for future generations) We would only ever know this retrospectively and so I don’t see any difference between human waste practices and those of ‘natural’ systems. 

The moral of the story is that we cannot solve the societal problems of waste by drawing incorrect conclusions about how other systems (non man-made systems) deal with it. 

We need to consider that ‘waste’ is simply material in the wrong place that eventually causes societal and environmental problems and base our solutions on this fact.