In Depth

Ten best zero waste shops in the UK

If you want to cut down your plastic use, these ten stores might be the best place to start

Across the UK, a new trend is taking hold among those wishing to diminish their negative impact on the environment: the so-called “zero waste” store.

According to Wearth London, these stores “help people to live a more zero-waste lifestyle by eliminating unnecessary packaging” by “stocking bulk products in large dispensable containers or jars”. Customers then bring their own containers and weigh out the amount they want to purchase, cutting down on both plastic and food waste.

“It's a more modern way of doing an older thing,” Sophie Rae, founder of Cardiff-based zero-waste store Ripple told the BBC, complaining that even recyclying-centric stores are not sustainable in the modern world. “We cannot keep up with recycling rates,” she said. “What if we just didn't have to recycle much at all?”

The Guardian describes the rise of these stores as something of a “quiet revolution”, reporting that over the past two years, well over 100 of these stores have sprung up across the UK, with some in the business putting the total number at close to 200.

If you want to cut down on wastage, here’s a list of the best zero-waste stores around the UK:

BYO, South London

BYO, based in London’s increasingly trendy Tooting Market, offers customers to fill up their own containers with “pulses, pasta, seeds, spices, cereals and more”, Culture Whisper reports, adding that you'll “also find a great selection of toiletries, detergents and plastic-free accessories, like rose gold straws, KeepCups and totes”.

What’s more, you can also purchase containers on site to use, in case you leave home without your tupperware.

Wastenot, Brighton

One of the most eco-friendly cities in the country - and the only with a Green Party MP - it probably comes as no surprise that Brighton has already hopped on board the zero-waste train.

Wastenot, according to Hip and Healthy, sells a unique range of “bamboo cutlery sets, steel lunch boxes and even reusable bamboo fibre makeup remover pads”, along with groceries in jars for refilling containers. Notably, they also offer delivery for online shoppers.

Charlotte’s Cupboard, Sussex

Charlotte’s Cupboard is rather unique among the stores on this list, as it moves from town to town furthering the cause of zero-waste consumption.

Check out their website for their itinerary as they load up their zero-emissions electric van with package-free groceries and hit the road, setting up shop in the towns of Burgess Hill, Brighton, Cuckfield, Forest Row, Hassocks and Lewes, depending on the day. They can also be hired for delivery.

The Clean Kilo, Birmingham

This massive store in central Birmingham has, according to Pebble Magazine, “already made a huge impact” in the city, with plenty of shoppers choosing to fuel their own personal eco-revolutions here.

The shop stocks a wide range of fruit and vegetables, along with grains, nuts, condiments and toiletries.

Preserve Foods, Bristol

Preserve Foods is one of the finest zero-waste establishments in the West Country, dedicated to working only with ethical suppliers, Hip and Healthy says.

Customers can pick up large variety of organic and vegan foods and non food products, including soap, deodorant, shampoo, and other toiletries.

The Refillery, Edinburgh

Another zero-waste shop with a heavy focus on ethics and sustainability, Pebble Magazine reports that The Refillery stocks a “huge range” of products, most of which have been sourced locally.

This includes honey from third generation producers and loose-leaf tea from Eteaket both based in Edinburgh, as well as organic fresh fruit, veg, eggs, bread, chocolate buttons and chocolate covered peanuts, the culture blog adds.

Sea No Waste, Arbroath

Sea No Waste, in the Scottish town of Arbroath, hosts 150 bins of plastic free-foodstuffs including herbs, spices, rice, pulses, nuts and a variety of flour.

The Courier reports that it also stocks other environmentally minded products, such as “stick deodorants in paper tubes, bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars”.

Owner Sammy Reid said that landmark BBC wildlife documentary Blue Planet was “pivotal in making everyone aware of the problem of plastics in the ocean”.

Locavore, Glasgow

Locavore has gone a step further than most zero-waste shops, serving as both an eco-friendly store and an acclaimed restaurant simultaneously.

Patrons can indulge in an ethically-sourced open sandwich - at a reasonable price - while people nearby “fill bottles and tubs with milk from a huge shinily silver machine”, while “oils, lotions and organic washing up liquids are available in the same way”, The Herald Scotland says. 

Natural Weigh, Crickhowell

This zero-waste shop opened a just ove a year ago in Crickhowell in mid-Wales, The Guardian reports, and is “filled with pasta, grains, seeds and dried fruit served from hoppers to avoid plastic packaging”

“Washing-up liquid and laundry products that customers pump into their battered old squeezy bottles,” the paper adds, while “fair-trade coffee and chocolate, plus an array of environmentally friendly products, such as bamboo toothbrush holders, plastic-free dental floss and vegan leather snack pouches – looks lovely”.

Ripple, Cardiff

On Cardiff’s Albany Road, you will find the city’s first not-for-profit zero waste shop, Ripple, opened by Sophie Rae in 2018. The walls decked with containers of nuts, seeds and coffee, this quirky little shop prides itself on its collaborations with Welsh creators and producers.

“Any products that cannot be sourced locally come from ethical companies who pay their workers better than the national average and source materials ethically,” The Tab reports. “For example, the company that makes the hemp backpacks pay factory workers six times the national average wage.”

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