From Hackney to Halifax, packaging-free shops could help cut plastic waste, reduce emissions—and save us moneyby Georgina Wilson-Powell / August 7, 2017 / Leave a comment
Forget the out-of-town supermarkets and the monthly, or weekly, shop. If you’re interested in helping reduce your impact on single use plastic and food waste, it’s time to revisit the way our grandparents used to shop: fresh, local and without packaging.
“Zero waste” stores have been popping up all over Europe for a while. Malmo has one, and so does Luxembourg, Amsterdam and so on. And, from August, London will have its first zero waste store, Bulk Market. Ingrid Caldironi will launch her zero waste concept with a three month pop-up in Dalston before moving to a permanent home in Hackney—along with a nut grinder, commercial-grade composting machine and a recycled container-greenhouse for DIY classes.
Although they’re not yet widespread, zero waste food shops help tackle several problems. There’s the overuse of single use plastic, and our lack of recycling of all the packaging we lug home as part of our food shop. The UK is trailing behind other European countries on this: we only recycle 43 per cent of packaging, while the target set by the European Union is 50 per cent. According to an EEA report in 2016, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden all recycle at least half of their municipal waste. Single use plastic is clogging up our oceans—if we carry on at our current rates, it’s projected that by 2050 there’ll be more bits of rubbish in the sea than fish.
“We need to change the perception of what is clean and acceptable.”
And then there’s the cost. Of every £50 spent in a supermarket, £8 pays for the packaging needed to store food or transport it long distances.
“The average household in the UK produces about a tonne of waste per year; the whole country about 30 million tonnes,” says Caldironi. “If only 5 per cent of the population adopted a zero waste lifestyle, we would see a reduction of at least 10,000 tonnes a year. Imagine the impact if even only 5 per cent of UK households created a maximum of a carrier bag of waste per year? We would be able to even beat the EU target of 50 per cent recycling.”
And then there’s the food itself. We all buy more than we need, which wastes food. Throwing away the odd…