London’s first-ever zero waste store is located on Kingsland Road in Hackney. The storefront is simple and subtle, with one small sign indicating its name, Bulk, and an attractive window display of fresh pastries, loaves of multigrain bread, and baskets of beautiful produce to draw in curious passersby.
Inside, Bulk feels like an oasis, far from the four lanes of rushing traffic just outside the door and the flashing, gaudy signs of neighboring stores. This is zero waste land, after all, a place where conscientious shoppers come to escape the trappings of consumerism and buy products in their purest form.
People have been wonderfully receptive, Caldironi told me. Saturdays are the busiest shopping day, with some people traveling an hour and a half on the train to buy food. Those who walk in unprepared can purchase bottles or bags, or use a jar from the donated ‘jar bank’. For the most part, though, people have read about the store online and come equipped.
Bulk sells loose eggs, cheese, olive oil, vinegar, dry goods, spices, coffee, dog food, toilet paper, and solid oils and butters, among other things. Caldironi is diligent about sourcing within a 100-mile range, although a few imported products come from France and the Netherlands .
When asked about health and safety regulations, so often touted by Canadian supermarkets as the reason for not allowing customers to refill their own containers, Caldironi said no such rules exist in Britain. She did extensive research and was inspected by the health authority, which loved her concept.
« It’s not about regulations. It’s about the supermarkets’ own policies. There’s nothing in health regulations that says we can’t refill, or that it’s unsafe, or that it’s unhygienic. »
Caldironi also takes pre-sale packaging into consideration. Most dry goods come in paper bags; olive oil comes in tins; and cleaning products come in refillable plastic jugs. This means Bulk cannot be called a ‘plastic-free’ store, but Caldironi said that’s not the point: « Our goal is to shorten the supply chain in order to reduce the overall amount of plastic. »
Source : Tree hugger