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Best zero-waste shops in London and the UK

Best zero-waste shops in London and the UK

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There’s a reason why Reduce and Reuse come before Recycle.

There’s a reason why Reduce and Reuse come before Recycle.

Best zero-waste shops in London and the UK
Each year the UK throws 2.5 billion disposable cups, 5.5 billion plastic bottles and 1.2 billion plastic fruit and vegetable bags directly into landfills. Even more concerning is the fate of packaging that we think we’re recycling, with the UK (the world’s second largest consumer of plastic) actually exporting two-thirds of its plastic waste abroad. This waste is often never actually recycled, and rather left to slowly pollute the environment and communities in the low income countries that are the recipients of our waste problem. And this doesn’t look set to change, with the UK declining to commit to new rules banning unsorted plastic waste from Europe being exported to non-OECD countries that came into force on 1st January; the day we left the EU. And so, even if you play by all of the rules of sorting and washing your plastic, there’s not much guarantee that the contents of your recycling bin won’t end up becoming someone else’s problem.

Paying more attention to Reduce is therefore a more effective way to ensure that your carbon- and waste- footprint is limited, and luckily there’s an increasing number of options you can explore in order to move towards zero-waste consumption. We’ve brought together everything you need to know to start your journey towards waste reduction.

Firstly, make a plan

Shifting to zero-waste packaging requires some thought and preparation; the last thing you want to do is purchase containers or goods that either don’t work for your space or don’t fit your lifestyle, and then have to…(ahem) throw them away as not fit for purpose. You want to create a system that is sustainable, so firstly think about in which areas of your life you’d like to shrink your waste footprint. This can range from food packaging in the kitchen, to your cleaning products under the sink, and toiletries in your bathroom. Maybe choose one area to start off with, and get a feel for what works and doesn’t work for you, your family and lifestyle. For example, I quickly realised that package-free bars of conditioner in no way work for my hair type, and after some initial (wasteful) mistakes am now far more thoughtful with my sustainable beauty purchases.

Next, assess your container situation to hold any package-less products that you buy. Think about where you’ll keep your containers, the amount of room and type of space you have. Pre-planning is especially important as reusable containers gobble up more energy and resources to manufacture than disposable packaging; meaning that you need to use your containers many times to offset these more energy intensive processes. For example, plastic Tupperware will use up much more plastic and energy to make than your average disposable packaging in the supermarket. Also think about what to do with your containers if and when you have to replace them. Although glass and metal containers require more energy to manufacture, they are still more durable than plastic and easier to recycle at the end of their lives.

Lastly, the sad but true fact is that food in packaging can keep for longer than fruit and vegetables brought loose, with one study suggesting that cucumbers in plastic wrapping stay fresh for up to two weeks longer than those without. Therefore, think about how often you shop for fresh produce in particular; and rather buy small amounts more often to avoid food waste.

Where to start shopping

There’s been a boom in recent years of stores that allow you to bring your own containers and self-fill them with dried goods, cleaning products and toiletries. A little online research on your local organic and natural food stores will often lead you to your nearest shop that sells zero-waste essentials. In London there are multiple chains across the city, such as Planet Organic, As Nature Intended and Whole Foods, which provide a large array of zero-waste products and services. There’s also an increasing number of local and independent stores specialising in zero-waste food and products. You could try the very stylish Harmless Store in Wood Green, BYO in Tooting Market which specialises in dried goods, and the excellent Bulk Market in Hackney which has a nice selection of grooming products, and all of their stock is available for home delivery. Check out the UseLess (read Use Less) website for a full directory of shops across the capital, and the Zero Waster search function to pinpoint your nearest store wherever in the UK you live.

And don’t forget your local greengrocer if you’re lucky enough to have one; you’ll be able to buy a wider selection of fruit and veg without packaging than in most zero-waste shops while supporting a local business.

Online

If you prefer online grocery shopping, there’s an increasing array of online businesses that will both deliver package-free goods to your door, as well as pick up any reusable containers. The Good Club aims to be the world’s first zero-waste online supermarket, and Plastic Freedom (and their very cool Instagram page) are a particularly good option for beauty and toiletries. Have a look at Wearth if you want to combine your online food shop with sustainably sourced and packaged fashion, jewellery and homeware, and The Plastic Free Shop is very good for zero-waste essentials.

Go local

As well as finding your local zero-waste store, also keep a look out for services offering locally produced food. Use the Food Box Finder website to source deliveries of veg boxes from local farms directly to your home, which will reduce your carbon footprint not just when it comes to packaging (the food is usually delivered in a single cardboard box), but also ensure that you are purchasing locally grown and seasonal products. You can also go old school and research whether your area still has a milkman. These services will deliver milk and other dairy goods straight to your front door in glass bottles, and then pick up the empties for reuse on the day of your next delivery. And don’t let living in a city deter you from searching local options. I’ve had local milk deliveries living in multiple areas of London! The Find Me A Milkman search function is a great port of call for researching local and low-packaged dairy.

Making the shift to zero-waste shopping can be quite a commitment, however with a bit of research you’ll be able to make the best choices for your lifestyle and, what’s more, quickly see the benefits in the form of your shrinking recycling bin.

Each year the UK throws 2.5 billion disposable cups, 5.5 billion plastic bottles and 1.2 billion plastic fruit and vegetable bags directly into landfills. Even more concerning is the fate of packaging that we think we’re recycling, with the UK (the world’s second largest consumer of plastic) actually exporting two-thirds of its plastic waste abroad. This waste is often never actually recycled, and rather left to slowly pollute the environment and communities in the low income countries that are the recipients of our waste problem. And this doesn’t look set to change, with the UK declining to commit to new rules banning unsorted plastic waste from Europe being exported to non-OECD countries that came into force on 1st January; the day we left the EU. And so, even if you play by all of the rules of sorting and washing your plastic, there’s not much guarantee that the contents of your recycling bin won’t end up becoming someone else’s problem.

Paying more attention to Reduce is therefore a more effective way to ensure that your carbon- and waste- footprint is limited, and luckily there’s an increasing number of options you can explore in order to move towards zero-waste consumption. We’ve brought together everything you need to know to start your journey towards waste reduction.

Firstly, make a plan

Shifting to zero-waste packaging requires some thought and preparation; the last thing you want to do is purchase containers or goods that either don’t work for your space or don’t fit your lifestyle, and then have to…(ahem) throw them away as not fit for purpose. You want to create a system that is sustainable, so firstly think about in which areas of your life you’d like to shrink your waste footprint. This can range from food packaging in the kitchen, to your cleaning products under the sink, and toiletries in your bathroom. Maybe choose one area to start off with, and get a feel for what works and doesn’t work for you, your family and lifestyle. For example, I quickly realised that package-free bars of conditioner in no way work for my hair type, and after some initial (wasteful) mistakes am now far more thoughtful with my sustainable beauty purchases.

Next, assess your container situation to hold any package-less products that you buy. Think about where you’ll keep your containers, the amount of room and type of space you have. Pre-planning is especially important as reusable containers gobble up more energy and resources to manufacture than disposable packaging; meaning that you need to use your containers many times to offset these more energy intensive processes. For example, plastic Tupperware will use up much more plastic and energy to make than your average disposable packaging in the supermarket. Also think about what to do with your containers if and when you have to replace them. Although glass and metal containers require more energy to manufacture, they are still more durable than plastic and easier to recycle at the end of their lives.

Lastly, the sad but true fact is that food in packaging can keep for longer than fruit and vegetables brought loose, with one study suggesting that cucumbers in plastic wrapping stay fresh for up to two weeks longer than those without. Therefore, think about how often you shop for fresh produce in particular; and rather buy small amounts more often to avoid food waste.

Where to start shopping

There’s been a boom in recent years of stores that allow you to bring your own containers and self-fill them with dried goods, cleaning products and toiletries. A little online research on your local organic and natural food stores will often lead you to your nearest shop that sells zero-waste essentials. In London there are multiple chains across the city, such as Planet Organic, As Nature Intended and Whole Foods, which provide a large array of zero-waste products and services. There’s also an increasing number of local and independent stores specialising in zero-waste food and products. You could try the very stylish Harmless Store in Wood Green, BYO in Tooting Market which specialises in dried goods, and the excellent Bulk Market in Hackney which has a nice selection of grooming products, and all of their stock is available for home delivery. Check out the UseLess (read Use Less) website for a full directory of shops across the capital, and the Zero Waster search function to pinpoint your nearest store wherever in the UK you live.

And don’t forget your local greengrocer if you’re lucky enough to have one; you’ll be able to buy a wider selection of fruit and veg without packaging than in most zero-waste shops while supporting a local business.

Online

If you prefer online grocery shopping, there’s an increasing array of online businesses that will both deliver package-free goods to your door, as well as pick up any reusable containers. The Good Club aims to be the world’s first zero-waste online supermarket, and Plastic Freedom (and their very cool Instagram page) are a particularly good option for beauty and toiletries. Have a look at Wearth if you want to combine your online food shop with sustainably sourced and packaged fashion, jewellery and homeware, and The Plastic Free Shop is very good for zero-waste essentials.

Go local

As well as finding your local zero-waste store, also keep a look out for services offering locally produced food. Use the Food Box Finder website to source deliveries of veg boxes from local farms directly to your home, which will reduce your carbon footprint not just when it comes to packaging (the food is usually delivered in a single cardboard box), but also ensure that you are purchasing locally grown and seasonal products. You can also go old school and research whether your area still has a milkman. These services will deliver milk and other dairy goods straight to your front door in glass bottles, and then pick up the empties for reuse on the day of your next delivery. And don’t let living in a city deter you from searching local options. I’ve had local milk deliveries living in multiple areas of London! The Find Me A Milkman search function is a great port of call for researching local and low-packaged dairy.

Making the shift to zero-waste shopping can be quite a commitment, however with a bit of research you’ll be able to make the best choices for your lifestyle and, what’s more, quickly see the benefits in the form of your shrinking recycling bin.

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