Buying in bulk is making a comeback, and not just because of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet documentary and the (proven) fact that plastic pollution has officially invaded every river, stream, and ocean on this planet. This is what our grandparents did on a daily basis: buy in bulk, and without the wasteful single-use packaging so ubiquitous today (usually disposable plastics).
This approach is nothing new, but it’s a breath of common sense in a world where it is considered acceptable to use a plastic container for just a few minutes, which may take a thousand years to decompose.
Knowing the facts – including the damning statistic that only 9% of all plastics are actually recycled – should encourage us to try to avoid single-use plastics as much as possible.
The independent zero-waste shops listed below will 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 (though they don’t all tick every one of these boxes): single-use plastics and packaging are nowhere to be seen, customers can bring their own containers, with no restrictions on size or material, and chances are you’ll find significantly more wholemeal, organic, and plant-based products.
So, let’s see: shopping this way cuts pointless plastics, saves money, and also combats food waste, since you will be more inclined to buy only what you need and to eat healthier bulk produce and ingredients. And it’s not just food: you can also buy cleaning products and homeware like bamboo toothbrushes and steel straws. Some are co-operatives that stock from local farmers/suppliers, investing investing in their local community. That’s another big plus.
The Bulk Market | Hackney, London
Recently opened in permanent premises in the heart of East London, after some time months as a popular pop-up nearby, the Bulk Market is the talk of the town (well, the part of town looking for ways to live ethically). Long story short, here’s how it works: take your own containers to the shop or purchase reusable ones supplied there; weigh your containers and take note of the amount, so it can be deducted at the till; fill your containers with bulk item required; and take your shopping to the till (where you will only have to pay for refills).
Londoners may have experienced non-packaged shopping in farmers markets and occasional health food stores, but this could become the new go-to shopping spot, and (re)fuel the vital zero-disposables trend.
Address: 6 Bohemia Place, Hackney, London, E8 1DU
Quote: “Changing the world for the better needs to be as easy and frugal as doing grocery shopping.”
Hetu | Clapham Junction, London
Saying no to more than just single-use, but also to animal products, palm oil, exploitation, and 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. John’s Hill, London, SW11 1TH
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, selling dried food, various non-food items to help you on your zero-waste journey, and filtered water that’s free from micro plastics, metals, and toxins. The shop initially opened only on Saturdays, but high demand led to their 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, Birkenhead, CH41 2YH
Telephone: 0151 539 4161
Sea No Waste | Angus, Scotland
A wee store in Scotland that gradually changes produce, and plans to stock even more fresh fruit and veg, wholefoods, herbs and spices, oils, toiletries, reusable cups, toothbrushes, and many other goodies. Everything is plastic-free, so don’t forget to bring your own containers/bags (though some will be for sale in case you do!).
Address: 17 Keptie Street, Arbroath, Angus, DD11 3AE
Telephone: 01241 23033
Locavore | Glasgow
This grocery carries 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, café, home delivery services, etc); all profits go back into building a better local food system. By offering a large selection of items so customers can bypass the supermarket and get most of what they need at fair and affordable prices, your money goes much further in the local community.
You can also help 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, Glasgow, G42 7SA
Telephone: 0141 328 3303 / 0141 423 8685
Email address: email@example.com
The Zero Waste Shop | Totnes, Devon
What’s special about this family-run shop in Totnes? As well as selling bulk, and producing zero waste, they are also the UK’s first zero-waste shop that is also organic, plant-based, and focused on 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, Devon, TQ9 5PF
Telephone: 01803 863 399
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Incredible Bulk | Cornwall
Cornwall’s only mobile zero-waste shop – aka the Bulkmobile! The couple behind the project decided to put their shop on the road, to help make adopting a zero-waste lifestyle accessible and convenient – meaning 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 below:
Email address: email@example.com
Zero Green | Bristol
Bristol’s first zero-waste shop celebrated its first birthday in 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 loose product 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, Bristol, BS3 1HT
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 – helpfully located near one of the town centre’s main car parks – is the project of two Cornish mums. After years of trying to avoid the immense quantity of unnecessary food packaging, especially single-use plastic which cannot be recycled, the two decided to offer the community an alternative solution. Yes, it was somewhat inspired by The Blue Planet.
Address: Lemon Street Market, Truro
Email address: email@example.com
The New Leaf Co-op | Edinburgh
The New Leaf Co-op is Edinburgh’s friendly, hands-on wholefood store, with a focus on products that are fresh, local, organic, low packaging, and reasonably priced. Stock ranges from scoop-your-own ingredients and snacks to loose herbs and spices, plus a whole host of refillable cleaning products for body and home. By working with local suppliers, they receive deliveries from four local organic vegetable suppliers throughout the week, and three different bakeries.
Check out their history.
Address: 23 Argyle Place, Edinburgh, EH9 1JJ
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.”
Avoiding senseless pollution also saves you money, as a fifth of a conventional shopping bill goes towards packaging alone.
The trend is on the up, as more such shops and co-ops open both globally and across the UK. We know we’ve barely scratched the surface with this selection, so if you know of a zero-waste shop near you, please add its name, address, and website in the comments below, or on the Ethical forum. Oh, and do to tell us why you like shopping there. Thank you.
More zero-waste shops ⤵️
Bring Your Own in Tooting Market (London, UK)
Zero-waste shops directories ⤵️
Zero Waste Near Me (UK)
Eco & Beyond (UK)
Don’t forget that you can start conversations on topics close to your interests on the Ethical forum.
Featured image via Shutterstock