6 Disadvantages Of Zero Waste Living

When you mention the word ‘zero waste’, most people will either think that it is a great idea because of its environmental benefits, or that it is completely unachievable. After all, how can one produce absolutely no waste?

When you adopt a zero waste lifestyle, you do so because it feels good. It’s better for the environment and your own conscience. However, let’s be real— change is hard, even if it’s for the better. For those who are thinking about making the change, it’s important to understand the cons of what you’re getting into.

In order to help you stay on track, here are some disadvantages of zero waste living that you might experience.

You Might Have To Change Your Diet & Habits

If you are committed to a zero waste lifestyle, you may find it difficult to find certain products that come with sustainable packaging.

Zero waste stores are amazing places run by eco-conscious business owners, but they can only source so much until manufacturers invest more into sustainable business operations.

Beginners Guide to Zero Waste Living

Find out more about how to transition from some of your disposable products to reusable and compostable versions.

It Can Be More Expensive

Buying plastic-free or certified eco-friendly products is quite often more expensive cheaper than your run-of-the-mill items at the supermarket. Unfortunately it is cheaper to package foods in plastic and farmers make a larger profit using harmful practises to ensure their produce has a higher yield.

Depending on where you live and what time of year it is, fresh fruits and vegetables can be extremely expensive when they are out of season. Alternatively, you could grow your own fruits and vegetables or ensure you buy food in bulk and store it sensibly.

Don’t get us wrong, you can be zero waste on a budget but it isn’t easy!

Zero Waste Living Is Not Convenient

One of the biggest disadvantages of going zero waste is that it is not convenient. When you are time-bound due to family commitments, or work, or the million other essential daily duties you have, there may not be much time left to be zero waste.

You may also have to visit several different food shops to do your weekly shop, which could involve making multiple trips.

The amount of washing up you do will increase! Instead using single-use plastics, you will have to clean and make sure your reusable containers are with you when shopping.

You will have to spend a lot of time researching different eco-friendly brands and reading reviews to ensure you’re buying products that isn’t harmful to the environment. Perhaps you love researching… in which case, that’s great! All it means is that all lot of your day-to-day purchases will be need to be considered, as opposed to an impulse buy.

Few Products Are “Zero Waste”

As we’ve discussed, many products are difficult to find that are zero waste.

Many products also claim to be ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ are just as single-use as they ever have been. This is because it is cheaper for the company to use greenwashing tactics to make these products seem like they have green credentials and appeal to conscious customers.

Moreover, very few items that you use are truly reusable forever. Even reusable zero waste swaps that we’d recommend like canvas bags or glass containers can break and need replacing.

Even if you completely eliminate all single-use items from your life, you will still have to produce some waste. And that’s fine.

You May Rely On Plastic-Free Shops

If you want to reduce your reliance on plastic, you will have to stop buying plastic packaged products. However, not all supermarkets provide unpackaged foods. Many of the major supermarkets provide unpackaged foods, but only provide them in certain stores and only sell certain products.

If you want to avoid plastic, you could be forced to rely on independent plastic-free shops.

This means that you may have to travel further and will be unable to buy the same amount of food as you would at a regular supermarket. Moreover, zero waste shops are unlikely to stock everything you’ll need for the week.

It’s worth noting that there are several online zero waste supermarkets that you can use.

It Can Be Stressful

It can cause anxiety knowing that you may have difficulty eating what you like and doing what you love without producing waste. Spending your time being zero waste can take a toll on your ability to have downtime and affect your mindset about about every day things.

The ideal zero waste lifestyle is where you can sleep soundly in the knowledge that you aren’t producing no waste. Remember, the ‘zero waste’ movement is strict but not a literal set of principles.

Even Bea Johnson, the credited ‘founder’ of zero waste, produces some waste!

The Key Take Away

The last thing we want to do it put off anyone thinking about going zero waste.

A zero waste lifestyle is undoubtedly an admirable goal and something that we should all be striving towards. However, it is not always easy to achieve, and there are some disadvantages to reducing your impact on the environment in this way. If you are considering a zero waste lifestyle, make sure that you are prepared for the challenges that it presents.

Ultimately, zero waste is a concept rather than a reality at the moment. Trying to reducing waste wherever possible without over-stretching yourself is better than nothing!

Omar Agor-Wood
Omar Agor-Wood

Omar is a digital marketer by day for one of the UK's largest environmental consultancy companies, and is writing like the world depends on it for Pick Ethical at night. He has a passion for hiking, bouldering, and making a fuss of his dog.


  1. This is a horrible article. Shame on you, from one human to another. I don’t know you and I never want to. To put disadvantage on zero waste is pathetic. The average American produces 5 pounds of waste a day. Do you know where that ends up?? A f***** landfill. Horrible just horrible. I hope to see you remove this article. This is disgusting. You are the problem.

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m not sure that you’ve read the article based on your feedback? We should all be striving to reduce waste and protect the environment, but there are definitely things that will challenge your lifestyle by trying to be zero waste, which is what I was highlighting. I’ve got lots of other helpful articles if you’d like to read something actionable? 🙂

  2. Hey Katelyn, there’s disadvantages to everything. Grow up and maybe educate yourself. You are societies problem with your hate and ignorance. Hey Katelyn did you also know that America only cares about money, Welcome to that government. Yall trust it too much. How I know? I use to work for them. It’s all just lies and greed. Which makes more people like yourself. Wake up and get ahold of yourself. Hope my comment made you furious because psychology says you will. Maybe you’ll wake up now. Either way I don’t really care.

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