Zero Waste Shops – How they work

zero waste shopping

Zero Waste Shops – How they work

If you are looking to reduce the amount of waste you are throwing away or wondering about how to cut down on your plastic consumption, then read on to find out how you can shop ‘zero waste’.


In my last blog post I introduced you to ‘zero waste’ and how to get started. if you missed it then you can check it out here – Zero Waste – What it is and how to do it’.

Zero Waste


In this blog I will be taking a look at some new shops popping up around the UK supporting a zero waste lifestyle.


What does it mean to shop zero waste?

If you are not sure what ‘zero waste’ actually means then click here to take you to my last blog that explains all. To shop zero waste means that you are buying foods and other items that are unpackaged and leave no rubbish at the end of their life.

If you take a look around the fruit and veg section in your local supermarket you will see the majority of items are wrapped in plastic. Some items of food have the option of being loose, but some items such as lettuce do not come with an unpackaged option at all.

Most of the packaging that your food comes in clearly says on the back ‘PLASTIC – not currently recyclable’. This means that every week you could be throwing away 10 or more plastic bags that are going to sit in landfill for years to come.

Why should I shop zero waste?


We are described as a ‘Throw Away Culture’ due to the fact that:


  • The UK alone produces more than 170m tonnes of waste every year, much of it food packaging.


  • It can take 450 years for some types of plastic bottles to break down.


  • One type of plastic, PET, while recyclable, doesn’t biodegrade at all.


  • Only a third of plastic packaging is recycled.



So as you can see, our landfill becomes full to the brim and this rubbish has no where to go. This waste rots and produces harmful gases (Carbon Dioxide and Methane), adding to global warming. We are running out of landfill space so we really need to be thinking about alternatives.


Zero Waste Shops


These are becoming a lot more common and you may be lucky enough to have a store near you. If you are unsure of where you can find one near you then check out The Zero Waster website that contains a list of places.


I headed to The Green Grocers in Norwich which is a fantastic shop offering zero waste shopping in Norfolk. Suffolk does not have anything like, this so I knew I had to take a trip to see this wonderful shop for myself.

Zero Waste Shop Norfolk

I was definitely not disappointed. The shop itself has a wide array of organic, health foods as well as a gorgeous cafe (which bakes delicious brownies). Tucked around the corner of the shop is an amazing zero waste refill section. I was so excited to get my glass jars out and start filling!


Here’s how it works:


1.Take along your reusable container. Some places also offer reusable/recyclable packages.


2. Weigh your container empty.


zero waste refill station


3. Write it down or print the sticker.


4. Fill your jar with your chosen item.


Package free shop


5. Weigh your jar again.


6. Print the label.

Plastic free shopping



A lot of places also have a refilling station for household products such as washing up liquid, detergent, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. All you need to do is take in your old container and refill it. The Green Grocers  have this refilling station but pictured below is The Daily Bread Co-operative in Cambridge.

Zero waste refills            Refillables

The Daily Bread Co-operative do not offer zero waste food shopping as all their food is packaged in bags but on their website they state:

“All our bags are made from plastic, but they contain an additive called Polybatch DEG 68. This additive causes the bag to degrade, to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, a process which is triggered by light and heat but will then continue even in darkness.”


What are the benefits zero waste shopping?


  • This way of shopping often means you only shop for the amount you need – you have the size of container that fits in your cupboard and it is a size that is big enough for how much you want to eat.


  • Some of the products come out cheaper than if you were to buy it in a supermarket. I found items like Quinoa were cheaper here than in my local supermarket.


  • As you are reusing packaging and containers over and over, there is no need to worry about how you are going to get rid of the packaging when you have finished with it.


  • Because you can choose how much or how little of a certain product you would like, it gives you the opportunity to try a little sample of something to see if you like it before committing to buying a big amount of it. This is often what you have to do in a supermarket as they choose the amount of the item you should have and put it in packaging for you.


  • Finally, it’s so much fun! Sad as it may sound, I really enjoyed doing the weighing and filling, choosing all the items I would like. A healthy version of Pic’N’Mix!


Just remember…

A lot of these stores also contain packaged items as they tend to be a health food shop as well but the more people that opt for the refills, the less need they will have for the packaged items. However, some stores only stock biodegradable packaging or ones that can definitely be recycled at the end of their life.


What if there isn’t a store near me?


Travel –  If the nearest zero waste store is a bit of a trek from you, then you can always take a day trip there and bring large containers with you to do a bulk buy. This way you can buy a large amount of items to last you for a few weeks or months. You could then spend the rest of the day exploring a new area!


Online – There are some great online stores that will post you your items in plastic free packaging. Here are two:


Alternatives – Stay tuned for my next blog post all about shopping zero waste out of the zero waste stores!


Don’t forget to check out The Zero Waster for details of a zero waste store near you and take a trip!