The Plastic Waste Series: Part Three – Zero-Waste Shops

Article by Hanna Glover August 9, 2018
Rubbish overflowing a bin represents the increasing plastic waste

In the final article in milk’s plastic waste series, Hanna Glover interviews local Bath shop, Harvest Natural Foods, to find out more about the ‘zero-waste’ shop initiative.

Lowering plastic waste is not something to consider just when you are eating or getting coffee out. There are also ways you can make a difference at home. One initiative is called ‘zero-waste’ shops, which means the shop lets you refill your own bags and containers, not only saving on waste but food as well.

Harvest Natural Foods on Walcot street in Bath are following this initiative. Here and at another Bath store, New Leaf Health Foods in Oldfield Park, you can purchase refills of wide range of loose grains, seeds, and nuts using your own bags or mason jars, for example.  Additionally, you can buy unpackaged vegetables and fruit and you can purchase items such as cereals and chocolate in bulk. This doesn’t just save the world around you – it’s kind to your pocket too. I spoke to Harvest Natural Foods to find out some more about the ethos behind a store like this.

The interview

What is the goal behind a store like Harvest Foods?
Harvest is a vegetarian wholefoods store aiming to provide ethically assured, (mostly) nutritious and fairly-traded products that people can trust. We’re especially keen to promote local, organic, and waste-free products, catering for a wide range of specialist diets (vegan, gluten, soy and nut-free, paleo, etc).

What does it mean to be a ‘zero-waste’ shop?
Whilst we wouldn’t class Harvest as a ‘zero-waste’ shop, we definitely would regard ourselves as ‘minimal waste’. We have an ever-increasing selection of packaging free products including: rices, pulses & grains, oats & mueslis, nuts & seeds, herbs & spices, shampoos, conditioners, hand washes & toilet rolls, cleaning products, and organic fruits & vegetables.

Minimise Waste. By Denise Johnson on UnsplashWe encourage people to bring in their own bags and containers for produce, however the ones we provide are all either recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. Also, all the proceeds of our 5p biodegradable carrier bags go to a different environmental charity annually. 2018 is the year of Save The Giants – a community-driven initiative that aims to train and empower the people of Guyana to manage their ecosystems and protect the endangered giant otter.

Do you think the introduction of these shops is the answer to lowering waste in our city?
It won’t be the only answer to lowering waste in the city, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction! So often in supermarkets, goods are packed in such an unnecessary amount of plastic etc, with no packaging-free alternative. Hopefully the growing demand for zero-waste options will put pressure on them to change this.

What are some ways, besides shopping at places like Harvest Foods, that individuals can be kinder to the environment?
There are so many little changes you can make to your daily habits that can lessen your impact on the environment. Carrying a reusable bag, cup and straw, recycling appropriately, shopping locally (and seasonally) and buying organic when possible (all those pesticides are killing the bees!) are all pretty easy ways we can do our bit.

What makes your shop unique and different to other ‘zero-waste’ shops?
Harvest has been trading since 1971 as part of the Essential Trading Co-operative – one of the largest worker co-operatives in the UK, fully accredited since the origination of Organic and Fairtrade licensing, and a proud pioneer of the wholefood market. As a co-operative, we have always had a strong belief in doing things our own way; the company is entirely owned and operated by its workers, and has a history of sticking to this ‘consciously different’ ethos. For example, our range offers a 100% vegetarian/vegan and GMO-free guarantee, and solely supports small producers and independent retailers; never selling to supermarkets.

Bath and other cities across the U.K are taking their stand against plastic waste. This is not an issue we can brush off anymore; doing nothing is no longer an option. However, taking small steps and doing your part is such a great way to contribute to the cause. We have so many opportunities in our city to make a difference, right here right now.

Enjoyed this 3 part series on plastic waste? Pick up our print issue in which Online Editor, Amy Barrett, talks to local scientists about the solutions they’re developing to replace single use plastics.

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