The eco-fascist effects of the zero waste movement

Gerald Sastra/ The Cougar

Gerald Sastra/ The Cougar

The zero waste movement, while noble in its cause, has a lot of issues. The movement ignores sociopolitical contexts of why people use plastic.

This type of attitude not only shames marginalized groups who don’t have the privilege of going zero waste, but it encourages the eco-fascist rhetoric as well. 

The zero waste movement features many bloggers whose posts often feature ways to decrease your plastic use. They list examples of using metal straws instead of plastic, switching to bar soap, using reusable bags, refusing receipts, etc.

These are all well and good; in fact, what they talk about is not an issue. The issue is what they don’t talk about. 

Many zero waste influencers rarely acknowledge the reality that many groups cannot abide by certain zero waste restrictions.

They always add “it’s okay to not be perfect” so that they can’t be blamed for being insensitive, but the fact remains that they often don’t speak on the difficulty of going zero waste for certain groups. 

Take the disabled community for example. Many disabled people need straws. The zero waste movement says no problem! Here are silicone straws, metal straws, bamboo straws, cornstarch straws, etc.

Some disabled people say they still need plastic straws due to allergies, biting issues and other circumstances. 

Many people react to these individuals as being over-demanding when they really are just concerned for their health. The zero waste community continuously alienates disabled people from the conversation by either brushing off their concerns or pretending they don’t exist.

The same goes for people of color. Since black people are often racially profiled, they may ask for a bag and a receipt at a store, even if they get something small like a candy bar. It’s for their own safety in case a racist police officer stops them assuming they stole it.

Many zero waste conversations don’t talk about these systemic issues that prevent people from going zero waste. 

By leaving marginalized groups out, the zero waste movement leans towards eco-fascist tendencies. Eco-fascism is an ideology that blames climate change on marginalized groups. It blames immigration and overpopulation for climate change and implies genocide as a solution.

The El Paso and Christchurch shooters were eco-fascists, claiming that they needed to kill people so that the rest could lead sustainable lives. This is exactly what eco-fascism tries to convince people of: that some individuals need to be sacrificed for others. 

The zero waste movement is not intentionally eco-fascist but by continuously ignoring the issues of marginalized groups, they are not advocating for a future for everybody. Rather, they’re advocating one for rich, white, able-bodied people while the rest get left behind. That has consequences. 

The straw bans happening for companies and cities are making it harder for disabled people to get the straws they need to drink. The zero waste movement needs to have dialogues with minorities on minority issues in order to prevent harm. 

It’s okay to want to reduce waste on this planet because we definitely need to. But it’s important to include marginalized groups in these conversations to avoid any eco-fascism.

The zero waste movement has been trendy lately and it’s okay to want to participate, but make sure to always remember that it’s not possible for everyone.

Systemic racism, ableism and classism makes it hard for most people to lessen their waste and we should center more plastic waste conversations on that. 

Opinion writer Anna Baker is an English sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

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