Updated: Nov 8, 2018
What is a zero waste shop? Have you ever visited one? Here's the low down.
According to an investigation by The Guardian, supermarkets create in excess of 800, 000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste, annually. Every single piece of plastic ever produced is still in existence somewhere on our planet. It is obvious that something needs to be done before the balance is permanently tipped too far. Growing demand for an alternative points towards zero waste shops. The modern day version of penny sweet shops (but for all sorts of products), increasing numbers of zero waste shops are springing up across the country, providing a greener alternative to the big supermarket chains.
Since having my 3 beautiful children, juggling daily school and nursery runs (not to mention multiple clubs and classes each week) means that I often struggle to find time to peruse the aisles of the supermarket, so I switched to online grocery shopping. However, the amount of plastic waste generated each week has recently begun to wear me down. This prompted me to bite the bullet and carve out some time to visit my local zero waste shop, Bamboo Turtle, in Letchworth Garden City.
Clinking away with my freshly washed glass jars, I headed over to investigate. The system is easy; it's self-service and each product is clearly labelled with its price per 100 grams. Customers' own jars and containers are weighed, then once filled, the final weight is calculated (sans container) on purchase. Downstairs is predominantly dry stock; think nuts, flour, sugar, spices, coffee, tea and dried fruit. There's also dry bathroom supplies, such as silk dental floss (which comes in a refillable glass jar), bamboo earbuds, toothpaste tablets, shampoo bars and deodorant tins. Everything is stocked in plastic free packaging and solid items such as the shampoo bars, are cleverly sold in handmade pocket-bags, re-purposed from old newspapers. Upstairs you can find everything from liquid shampoos and conditioners (reusable pumps and bottles available to buy), to dishwasher tablets, washing powder, washing up liquid and even cleaning products. Filling up old bottles with shampoo and conditioner is a brilliant way to reduce plastic waste for those who can't quite make friends with shampoo bars.
Does it all add up?
I’m often told that “environmentally friendly” is more expensive, and realistically it can be, therefore in order to make this kind of shopping affordable, a monthly stock up rather than a smaller weekly trip is the way forward. Calculating product usage over a month works out to be pretty cost effective. 60 chewable zero-waste toothpaste tablets can be bought for £3.80, which for a months’ supply of toothpaste is pretty reasonable. My shampoo bar cost £2.30 which I am anticipating will last much longer than my usual bottle of shampoo. Natural ingredient based liquid shampoos and conditioners came in at just 70p per 100ml. Some products did work out slightly dearer, for example almonds retailed at £2.00 per 100g compared to £2.00 per 200g in Tescos, however when you can pick dishwasher tablets up for 15p per tablet, package free, it's definitely worth the trip.
My first experience shopping zero waste style was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the supermarket, plus I left with a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that my bathroom is now a few steps closer to being a plastic-free haven. For anyone interested in reducing their plastic footprint, visiting your local zero waste shop should definitely be made a priority. If the current trend for more plastic conscious shopping continues, shopping in zero waste shops will provide consumers with greater choice and pressure will mount on the big supermarkets to reconsider their plastic wastage. Here’s hoping...