Bulk is making a comeback, not just because of The Blue Planet and the (proven) fact that plastic pollution has officially invaded every river, stream, and ocean on this planet. Buying in bulk and with no single-use packaging (usually disposable plastics) is what our grandparents used to do on a daily basis. It’s nothing new. These days it feels like a breath of common-sense in a world where using a plastic container (that needs hundreds of years to decompose) for just a few minutes is considered normal. But knowing the facts – including the fact that only 9% of all plastics actually gets recycled – should encourage us to try and avoid single-use plastics as much as possible.
The independent zero waste shops we list below are going to make your life much easier. You’re very lucky, and we’re very jealous if you live anywhere near them. The functioning principles of each of these shops are similar: single-use plastics and packaging are out of sight, people can bring their own containers with no restrictions regarding size and material, and chances are you’ll significantly find more wholemeal, organic, and plant-based, although not all bulk-zero-waste shops tick all these boxes.
So, let’s see: you cut pointless plastics, save money, and also combat food waste as you are more inclined to buy what you need and to eat healthier bulk produce and ingredients. And it’s not just food, you can also buy cleaning products or home-ware like bamboo toothbrushes and steel straws. Some are cooperatives that stock from local farmers/suppliers, investing locally, in the community they belong to. That’s another big plus.
The Bulk Market | Hackney, London
The shop recently opened in the heart of East London after spending quite a few months as a popular pop-up, not far from its current location. They’re the talk of the town, well, the town that is looking for ways to live ethically. Long story short, here’s how it works: You bring your own containers to the shop or purchase reusable ones in the shop. Then weigh your containers and take a note of the weight, so it can be deducted at the till. Fill your container with the bulk item. Take your shopping to the till to pay. As expected, you will only pay for the refills.
Londoners experienced unpacked shopping before in farmers markets and the occasional health food stores, but this could become the new go-to shopping spot, and (re)start and fuel that necessary zero-disposables trend.
Address: 6 Bohemia Place, E8 1DU, Hackney, London
Quote: “Changing the world for the better needs to be as easy and frugal as doing grocery shopping.”
Hetu | Clapham Junction, London
They say no to more than just single-use, they say no to animal products, no to palm oil, no to exploitation, and no to over consumption, in general. Hetu sells staple whole foods, unprocessed, unrefined in bulk, and sustainable reusable items. Good for the planet, good for your health. In South London.
Address: 201 St. Johns Hill, SW11 1TH, London
Quote: “We are on a mission to change the world with one of the most powerful tools at our disposal; our buying power.”
Waste Not Want Not | Birkenhead,
This is Merseyside’s first zero waste, plastic free vegan store. They sell dried food, various non food items to help you on your zero waste journey, and filtered water (free from micro plastics/metals/toxins). The shop used to open on Saturdays only, but due to high demand they started considering other days too. So, yep, help them consider most weekdays and keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Address: Birkenhead Market, Claughton Road, CH41 2YH, Birkenhead
Telephone: 0151 539 4161
Sea No Waste | Angus, Scotland
It’s a wee store in Scotland that changes gradually and plans to store even more fresh fruit and veg, wholefoods, herbs and spices, oils, toiletries, reusable cups, toothbrushes and many other goodies. They’re all plastic free, so don’t forget to bring your own containers/bags. Just in case you forget, they’ll have some for sale.
Address: 17 Keptie Street, DD11 3AE, Arbroath, Angus
Telephone: 01241 23033
Locavore | Glasgow
This grocery store sells a wide variety of local organic produce as well as a big selection of organic groceries and household items. But Locavore is not just a shop, it’s a social enterprise (farm, cafe, home delivery services, etc.) and all their profits go back into forwarding their aims of building a better local food system. They offer a wide selection of items so that people can choose to bypass the supermarket and get most of what they need at fair and affordable prices, so your money goes much further in the local community.
You can also help them by investing in their Big Plan through their Loan Stock offer, or share their big idea with friends and family. Did I mention you should also shop there?
Address: 349 Victoria Road, G42 7SA, Glasgow
Telephone: 0141 328 3303 / 0141 423 8685
Email address: email@example.com
The Zero Waste Shop | Totnes, Devon
What’s special about the family-run shop in Totnes? They are selling bulk, producing zero waste, but they are also UK’s first zero waste shop that is also organic, plant-based, and wholefoods. From vegan chocolates to shampoo, you’ll find all the basics in this shop catering for a tightly knit community.
Address: 101 High Street, Totnes, TQ9 5PF, Devon
Telephone: 01803 863 399
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Incredible Bulk | Cornwall
This is Cornwall’s only mobile zero waste shop (aka The Bulkmobile!). The couple behind this project decided to put their shop on the road, to make it accessible and convenient to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. So instead of having a single location you’ll be able to find them at various locations around Cornwall. They sell loose, package free food and home products in reusable containers rather than single use packaging. Obviously.
Address: This is a mobile zero waste shop – a van that can be found in several locations. Well, not at the same time 🙂 If you’ve got a suggestion for a new stop, get in touch with them.
Email address: email@example.com
Zero Green | Bristol
Bristol’s first zero waste shop celebrates 1 year this March (2019). You know the drill by now: bring your own containers, jars or cloth bags to the shop; weigh them; fill them with as little, or as much of our loose products as you like; weigh them again and pay at the till. They also sell a variety of non-food items such as plastic free deodorants, water bottles, coffee cups, bamboo cutlery sets and stainless steel straws.
Address: 12 North Street, BS3 1HT, Bristol
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Refill Store | Truro
With the aim to reduce cost to the shopper and waste to the environment, this convenience store is the project of two Cornish mums. After years of trying to avoid the immense unnecessary packaging that surrounds food, especially single use plastic which cannot be recycled, the two decided to offer the community an alternative solution. Yes, it was a bit fueled by David Attenborough’s documentary “The Blue Planet”.
Address: Lemon Street Market, Truro [their location brings the convenience of being able to refill your supplies near one of the main centre car parks]
Email address: email@example.com
The New Leaf Co-op | Edinburgh
The New Leaf Co-op is Edinburgh’s friendly, hands-on wholefood store. They focus on products that are fresh, local, organic, low packaging, and reasonably priced. From scoop-your-own ingredients and snacks to loose herbs and spices, plus a whole host of refillable cleaning products for body and home. They work with local suppliers, with deliveries from four local organic vegetable suppliers throughout the week, and three different bakeries. Check out their history.
Address: 23 Argyle Pl, EH9 1JJ, Edinburgh
Telephone: 0131 228 8548
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote: “As a co-operative, our four worker-members all take equal responsibility in running the business. We aim to pay ourselves a living wage, and further profits are channelled back into the business and toward seeding new community-run projects.”
Remember this: By trying to avoid senseless pollution you also save money, as a fifth of your shopping bill goes on packaging alone.
Friendly reminder: The trend is up as more such shops and coops open across UK and globally. We know we’ve barely scratched the surface with this selection, so if you know of a zero waste shop near you, please add the name, address and website in comments or on the ethical forum. Oh, and do to tell us know why you like shopping there. Thank you.
Don’t forget that you can start conversations on topics close to your interests on the ethical forum.
Featured image via Shutterstock