With every recycling bin I fill I feel guilt. I think about my recycling mass multiplied over the weeks of a year, then multiplied over the years before it biodegrades or is fully recycled, and then multiplied by all the households in my city, country, and worldwide. Packaging is a colossal waste.
Rather than Recycle, what about the other Rs – Reduce and Reuse? A new zero waste supermarket in Berlin, Original Unverpackt [Original Unpacked in English] is all about packageless shopping. Nothing that comes in a disposable box, bag, jar, or other container is sold there. Plastic wrapping is banished. Shoppers take their pick from the bulk bins, and take their drinks from refillable bottle stations.
Growing up in Northern Ireland, my eco-friendly family filled up our containers with dried foods at the ‘scoop shop’. In my new home of Oxford, Uhuru Wholefoods on Cowley Road has a similar minimal packaging system. But since Berlin is often bigger and better (sigh!), Original Unverpackt too is on a larger scale with absolutely no single use packaging nor pre-packaged goods.
If this trend to eliminate packaging catches on, the wider carbon footprint - in petrol consumption and transport emissions - of grocery shopping could be slashed significantly.
I’ve long dreamed of this packageless model for cosmetics too. How many shampoo and moisturiser bottles do we each go through every year? Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could refill these bottles at a place like Boots or Superdrug?
Eliminate food packaging waste before it even gets into the shopping cart. The store will encourage people to bring their own containers and bags with them to hold the exact amount of the item they wish to buy. There will be absolutely nothing that comes in a disposable box, bag, jar or package sold at the store. If you happen to forget your containers, or spontaneously decide to grab something on your way home, don’t worry, there will be containers for you to borrow or recycled paper bags.