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Food & Hunger

What does a grocery store with no waste look like?

Flickr: Diego Sevilla Ruiz

Germany is a leader in innovation. You may have heard that Germans created the automobile and beer. But did you know that two women in Germany started a zero-waste grocery store?

Germany produces 16 million tonnes of waste each year, but a grocery store with zero-waste is changing that.

Original Unverpackt opened a year ago and is the first zero-waste grocery store in Germany. Here’s a look at how a grocery store in Berlin is changing the way we think about supermarkets.

So what does a grocery store that produces NO waste look like?

The inside of Original Unverpackt looks more like a laboratory than a conventional supermarket. The zero-waste grocery store sells all kinds of products, including toiletries, fresh produce and even liquids like milk and yogurt–except with zero packaging material.

what-does-a-grocery-store-with-no-waste-look-like-b4.jpgImage: Flickr: storebukkebrute

Imagine walking into a grocery store and instead of trying to decide between a large container of yogurt or four mini yogurts, you just pour the amount of yogurt you want from a glass jar into your own container and then take home just the right amount.

what-does-a-grocery-store-with-no-waste-look-like-b1.jpgImage: Flickr: storebukkebrute

Dry goods are stored in large containers, liquids in glass jars, and customers can even buy wine by pouring the desired amount from a barrel. This method cuts down on food waste as well as packaging. If customers only want to buy one spoonful of sugar–no problem! This is a big change from pre-packaged goods and provides consumers with more options.


what-does-a-grocery-store-with-no-waste-look-like-b3.jpgImage: Flickr: storebukkebrute

Original Unverpackt is not the only zero-waste grocery store, either. There’s a zero-waste grocery store in France and models are coming soon to the US. In France, a zero-waste store called Day to Day has five locations throughout the country. The format of the store is similar to Original Unverpackt and offers over 450 products with no packaging.

Buying organic, non-GMO and local is often more expensive, but the owner of Day to Day says that her products are nearly 40 percent less expensive than packaged goods at the supermarket. Transparency at the supermarket is tricky--what does the price of an item consist of? I agree that it can be hard to tell exactly how much packaging costs.  Even when a product isn’t expensive upfront, the environmental cost of packaging can be high.

Zero-waste grocery stores are desperately needed in the US, where the average American produces an average of over four pounds of trash a day and most of it from food. So far, only a few waste-free grocery stores are in the works in the US. More are needed. I think every country will benefit from eliminating packaging and plastic from products.

I love being able to buy lunch on the go, and I would love it even more if my lunch did not come with trash. Germany’s zero waste grocery store sets a fantastic example of how to achieve a sustainable way to shop and eat. I hope zero-waste markets are soon available everywhere.

Purchasing products with no trash and packaging reduces carbon emissions, helps combat climate change, and also tackles that giant floating island of trash. There’s also an additional bonus--no more unpacking groceries when you get home!