Packaging-Free Supermarkets – the first step towards reducing waste?

After spending one week in Singapore with the WBCSD and learning about sustainable development and how businesses must change in order to meet current issues, I started to rethink my own actions in my everyday life. One thing that really shocked me was the amount of waste my flat produces every week. We are a flat of seven people and have to empty the bins at least twice a week if we do not want our kitchen to look like a landfill. Although we are trying to separate our waste in glass, paper and plastics, a lot of it still ends up in the ‘general’ bin and therefore won’t be recycled. Furthermore, I started to notice that even though our flat tries to put the right waste into the right bins outside our house, most of the other flats around us do not make the same effort and just put the trash into random bins which makes it difficult to recycle them.

As I realized that I cannot have an impact on the waste separation of our whole street, I started to approach the problem from another side and saw that the problem of waste does not start with the recycling but with the creation of it in the first place. There are many ways in which we can avoid producing waste and one big part of it is packaging. If I look at the waste in our kitchen, nearly 90% of it is packaging. This is shocking as most of it is completely unnecessary and just for the purpose of transporting the food from the shop to your house. But there is a strong countermovement taking place right now as the first packaging-free supermarket in Europe named ‘Unpackaged’ opened in London in 2007. It is one of the oldest and newest trends at the same time. Not too long ago it was normal not to have packaging wrapped around every single piece sold in the supermarkets and buy food from local grocery stores, markets or straight from the farmers. When the use of packaging increased it was considered progressive but today consumers are more aware of the environmental impact of waste and reinvented the packaging-free shops.

We should always be aware of the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” and make sure that we start with the first part of it before we think about reusing and recycling things. I definitely want to start to reduce my packaging waste by going to the local packaging-free “Single Step Whole Foods” shop in Lancaster. There are many packaging-free shops around you, most of them are very small and you wouldn’t even notice them if you didn’t know about them, just look it up in the internet and you will be surprised about what you find!

Each and everyone of us produces 617kg of waste per year.

Is there nothing you can do to reduce your amount of waste today?

Leonie Friedrich

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