As I said at the beginning of this blog, I started trying to reduce my landfill waste because of Blue Planet II, and the issues it highlighted about our increasing problem with plastic pollution. After all, not only is it affecting us as humans, it’s also having a really negative impact on our marine wildlife, and our oceans across the world.
One of the ways in which waste can be reduced waste easily is to visit a zero waste supermarket. In some countries there are bulk-buy stores, where you can take your own containers to the store and fill them up with any amount of each food item that you require. This is great as not only does it reduce packaging waste, it also reduces the amount of food that gets wasted too. After all, if you buy only what you need, there is a much lower chance of food getting thrown away. In the U.K, zero waste supermarkets don’t seem to have existed for a number of years. At least, I don’t ever recall coming across any in the 1990s and 2000s. The good news is that there are now some popping up in different places across the U.K. It seems that the messages about our increasing problem with plastic pollution is spreading, and in response to this, zero waste supermarkets are starting to appear.
So, while I was recently visiting a friend in another part of the U.K, I paid a visit to the new zero waste supermarket that had recently opened up there. My friend and I had heard a number of months before that a zero waste supermarket was due to open there, and decided that we were going to visit. So I had gone prepared with a bag full of my own empty containers to fill up with their goods.
When we arrived at the supermarket, both my friend and I were pleasantly surprised at the range of items available to us. There was a large selection of dry foods such as pasta, rice and grains for one thing. There were also several varieties of each; from wholewheat fusilli to large conchiglioni shells; from brown rice to risotto and white long grain rice; and from soya beans to couscous, lentils and chickpeas. The amount and varieties of the different foodstuffs on offer meant that I could buy as much as I wanted in bulk so that I didn’t run out for a number of months.
There was also a selection of loose teas on offer, ranging from fruit teas to herbal teas to breakfast teas. There was a sign saying that the owners were planning to increase their range soon to include decaffeinated teas. As a big tea drinker I thought this was great, and I’d made a note to look out for them next time.
A wide selection of herbs and spices were on offer too, all in big glass jars or tins. You could buy anything from mixed herbs, to chilli powder to curry powder. I thought it was a great idea as it meant that I could scoop out as much as I needed into my own containers, again buying as much or as little as I wanted, and not having to be so concerned about buying too much and it going to waste.
I was also impressed by the selection of fresh fruit and vegetables on offer. I was able to buy salad ingredients such as cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes without any packaging at all – something that can be more difficult to do at regular supermarkets. What was also great was that they were locally grown and had therefore done virtually no air miles. This meant that their fruit and veg was far more likely to be much fresher, and had a much smaller carbon footprint.
Not only had the owners of the new supermarket thought about the packaging, but they had also thought about how eco friendly their products are. I came across some eco cleaning products which have less chemicals in them, meaning that they’re likely to be much better for the environment as they are less likely to contribute to polluting the water we drink.
Everything was clearly labelled with “use by” dates, with each item including a list of allergens (such as gluten). Some products were also organic, which was labelled too. All of the dry goods were in vertical dispensers so you could dispense as much as you want into your own containers.
When going into the store, one of the store assistants greeted us, and explained that the the first thing we needed to do was to weigh all of our containers, and put a printed label with the weight of the container on each one. This was to ensure we were only paying for the goods we were purchasing. Once our containers were filled, we weighed them all again, to get a printed label with the price for each item. Once we’d done this, we took our shopping to the till, where everything was totalled up and paid for.
The store assistant who served me asked if I wanted a receipt. Usually I do take them, but the assistant explained that they only print receipts on request, as the paper they’re printed on contains BPA and can’t be recycled – another fact I didn’t know about until then!
I think zero waste supermarkets are such a great idea. Hats off to the people who have put their time and efforts into providing us with a viable alternative so far. I hope the word continues to spread, and that zero waste supermarkets become increasingly more popular, not just in the U.K, but across the globe. A list of zero waste supermarkets in the U.K can be found here: The UKs Best Zero Waste Stores. Why not try visiting one yourself?