There are many zero waste shops around these days. Instead of buying oodles of different items in small amounts in plastic bags, you just order what you want with a scoop, have it weighed (often in your own container brought from home) then just return to fill up again. Just be aware not to buy too much (for instance, too much flour kept at home can create weevils). You can always return to stock up later on. Pebble has a more extensive list, but here are just a few retail shops to inspire. Also see the post on refusing paper receipts. Enter your postcode to find local zero waste shops at The Zero Waste Network.
- The Clean Kilo (image) is the UK’s largest zero waste shop, a zero waste supermarket in the large city of Birmingham. It sells most items you would expect to see in a supermarket, but in bulk containers, so no need for extra packaging.
- Earth Food Love was England’s first zero waste shop. It was set up by an ex-Manchester United footballer, who decided to be a shopkeeper instead. He has also just set up England’s first plant-milk delivery service (in glass bottles) with plans to go nationwide.
- The Zero Shop is just one of many zero waste shops in London. This one in Wimbledon is an independent shop, with all items sold in bulk or without disposable packaging, mostly from organic and Fair Trade and often local producers.
- Incredible Bulk is based in Cornwall. What’s different here is that it operates from a van, so can take its zero waste goodies to several rural areas.
- The Good Life is a lovely little online store, that sells lots of staple groceries in zero waste packaging, with refill options. The range includes organic fruit and vegetable boxes and bulk-buy of tea, oat milk and eco-cleaning (in refillable 5 or 20 litre quantities).
Online Zero Waste Shops
- Forrist is a beautiful online zero waste store, to restock all your pantry essentials and personal care/cleaning goods. Everything is sent in zero waste packaging (you also get free zero waste gifts for regular orders) and you can return 50 of their bags/pouches to compost, to swap for glass jars that are sent to you as part of their Back to the Forrist take-back program. You can sign up for subscription boxes to keep your pantry stocked, with next day delivery options and free delivery on your first order.
- The Kind Store Online is a pretty shop where you can find zero waste plant-based products from over 100 brands, ideal for regular essentials or when you need to replace something (they also offer a nice Kind Box that makes a lovely gift). All parcels are sent in zero waset packaging, with 10% of profits donated to Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. There is a loyalty club to earn points on orders, that can be redeemed against further purchases.
- Zero Waste Bulk Foods is lets you send them reusable fabric bags, they fill up what you want, and then send them back to you, with your name attached.
- Zero Waste Club sell the basic essentials on subscriptions like bamboo toothbrushes and plastic-free razors. The founders have a useful post on how to start your own zero waste shop.
Containers for Zero Waste Shops
Obviously it’s good to prepare a bit first, by deciding what you are going to buy, and what containers to take (most zero waste shops sell them, if you need them or forget). Because you are using these containers for food, it’s good to keep them for that purpose, and wash them thoroughly after use with hot water and biodegradable non-scented washing up liquid, rinse and dry thoroughly, and then label to use again. Most zero waste shops won’t understandably be liable for any food poisoning!
You can also use clean glass bottles and jars, reusable produce bags for fresh fruits and veggies, tins or sandwich boxes for baked items.
London’s Food Shop (with no packaging)
Unpackaged was one of the first to go without any plastic packaging. Its unique self-service weighing scale is able to remove the weight of any container you bring, so it doesn’t cost you any more. Just bring your own containers, tare weight it once, then keep the label and make repeat visits quicker. The labels easily peel off, so you can wash your container, and stick it back on, when dry. Obviously the company cannot accept liability for any bacteria, if you don’t wash the container properly.
Zero Waste Supermarkets
Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery is all vegan, and one of the best examples of how to run a supermarket. Not only is everything ethically made and mostly local, but the company has good zero waste principles built in:
- All fruits and veggies have always been sold lose.
- They offer ‘unpacked dried goods’ (10% cheaper).
- You can buy or even rent a cloth bag if you want.
- They use home-compostable cellulose nets to bag veggies up, if needed.
- Salads and olives are sold in reusable tubs.
- They offer a soup cup deposit scheme.
- Breads and sweet treats are sold in home-compostable bags.
- Customers also fill up their reusable water bottles any time of day or night, from their (tap water) refill station in the front garden.
Her Whey is a zero waste shop in Ryde, with many items vegan and locally-sourced. With a click-and-collect service available, the range includes dry foods, herbs, spices, oils and vinegars, plus zero waste beauty and cleaning items. Bring your own container to fill up, or use a donated container (liquids are charged by volume, solids by weight). Peach (Newport) offers island-wide delivery for everything from bamboo toothbrushes to compostable poop bags, everything food-wise is locally-sourced, where possible.