Is a Zero Waste Grocery Store Coming to You? #WasteNotWantNot

Is a Zero Waste Grocery Store The Next Big Thing?

For our most recent installment in the Waste Not Want Not series, we’re looking at a business model that has been thriving in Europe for a while now and is just starting to pop up in North America. This trend is zero waste, or no waste, grocery stores. The zero waste grocery store concept is pretty simple. The idea is to eliminate waste by not offering products in packaging or providing single-use plastic bags. Keep reading to learn just how this works.

Solving the Problem at the Source

Grocery stores historically create a lot of waste. From cardboard to plastic, there are a lot of packaging materials that are unnecessary. By not using these materials, stores are able to limit, or in some instances completely do away with, the amount of trash both they and their customers produce.

For instance, in a traditional grocery store, pasta comes packaged in a box for individual sale, which is packed in a larger box, that is shrink wrapped on a pallet with other boxes. In this example, the pallet will be reused as many times as possible, but everything else in this scenario will be thrown away. To be fair, some of the packaging may be recycled, but most of if it won’t be recycled. Litter is a very real possibility that results from too much packaging.

All of this packaging is made using resources that could be put to better use in other more necessary applications. Under the zero waste grocery store model, all of this unnecessary packaging is eliminated. Food is sold in bulk and customers bring their own reusable containers and measure out the exact quantity they need.

Some zero waste grocery stores even offer products like milk in reusable containers that the customer can return to the store for a refill. This reminds me of when I was a child and we bought our milk in bottles that we would return to the store.

The zero waste grocery store model also does away with disposable bags. Shoppers bring their own reusable grocery bags to carry their purchase home. Single-use plastic bags are one of the biggest environmental offenders and end up in landfills for en eternity, leaching into our water supply and food chain. Even though single-use plastic bags are recyclable, they seldom are recycled as they cannot just be dropped into the recycling bin at home. Zero waste grocery stores simply do not generate excessive amounts of trash and reusable bags are a big part of their model.

How a Zero Waste Store Impacts Purchasing

Purchasing products from a zero waste grocery store helps consumers focus on what they’re purchasing. This structure allows consumers to purchase exactly what they need because people are less likely to over buy or pick up impulse items they don’t really need. If a shopper needs enough flour and sugar to bake one cake, they don’t have to purchase enough to bake five cakes.

In a traditional store larger quantities may be packaged as ‘family size’ and sold at a lower price per unit. This generates additional waste, and purchasing large quantities is only useful if the consumer is going to use everything. Going zero waste also helps shine a light on wastefulness by identifying how much waste is generated in a typical store. It can also inspire customers to make changes in other areas of their lives to reduce waste.

This method works very well is large urban areas where consumers walk or utilize public transportation to run errands. Oftentimes consumers have limited space in their homes, specifically in the kitchen, so it makes sense for shoppers to purchase, carry home and store exactly what they need. This setup takes some planning ahead of time. A customer can’t just quickly pop in the store to pick up a couple items. They need to bring containers and a reusable bag to carry everything home. Clearly, this structure does not work for all types of products, but for grains, spices, pasta, oils and similar items this system works very well.

Is a Zero Waste Store Coming to Your City?

Have you shopped at a zero waste grocery store? Would you? The idea of shopping at a zero waste store can be intimidating, but we encourage you to help your customers adopt one of the main practices of zero waste shopping and create a custom reusable shopping bag for your brand or reach out to us today with any questions.


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