Is the shop really zero waste?
One big criticism that I heard first hand while I was planning the shop was – "Calling it zero waste is misleading when you still have waste from deliveries and packaging."
I was a little taken aback by this at the time but it did get me thinking and honestly, yes we will still use packaging for food and goods delivered to us. Zero Waste isn’t what I have achieved yet but it is what I am aiming for. It is also what I hope I can support our customers in achieving at home. I think it’s important to know what will happen to our products after they leave the shop. The onus has been on consumers to deal with packaging in the right way for a long time, but we desperately need businesses to be taking the weight off our shoulders and out of our domestic waste bins!
The main focus has always been to eliminate plastic as much as possible but after turning this criticism over in my mind, I realised I needed to think bigger. I have considered what types of waste we might encounter during the day to day running of the shop and what I can do to minimise this. We are reliant on food regulations, and the supply chain for what goods arrive with us in, but how that packaging leaves the shop is the key part.
My promise to my customers is that Earthian Zero Waste Shop will be a 'zero waste to landfill' business by the time we reach our first anniversary. According to the Carbon Trust website, this means that at least 99% of waste from the shop should be diverted away from landfill and "either reused, recycled, composted, or sent to energy recovery" instead. It is how I hope we can earn the zero waste in our shop title.
I've given myself a year to reach this goal to make sure I have a full idea of the realities after opening but I have made a start now to tackle some of the waste from setting up the shop. Here is a little look at what is in place already:
We have already encountered boxes and packaging from fitting out the shop and will continue to see many, many more from weekly deliveries after the shop opens. Almost all of them have only been used once and are still in very good condition, so I wanted to do something with them instead of using energy from the recycling process.
Initially the boxes from first stock and furniture orders will be donated to my sisters house move. Later, when we set up local deliveries we will reuse our medium and small boxes to package your orders. I have also set up an account with an organisation called Packshare. Through this I’ll be able to save our excess boxes and pass them onto anyone in the local area who needs them via the website. It will be great to see them leaving the shop to continue being useful for a while longer.
If you are looking for any, either for your own business or for at home, you can sign up to Packshare for free or drop me a line to let me know what you need! Currently, Earthian is the only business in Winchester that is signed up to this scheme. It would be great to get some more local businesses on here. Especially those looking to receive boxes. Please also spread the word so that more people can benefit from free cardboard boxes and prevent them being wasted.
Sending packaging back.
If you saw my previous blog about liquid refills, you’ll already know that one of the big savings of plastic waste from the shop will be the drum containers. We will be using two fantastic, ethical companies for liquids that take back and refill all our empties. This closed-loop system means that the large plastic containers stay in circulation for as long as possible.
I’m also really excited that our coffee beans and grounds will also be closed loop, they come to us from Forest Edge Roasting Co. in the New Forest in tubs that we keep and send back to be refilled! I’m definitely a big fan of Forest Edge because of their innovative approach, but I’ll save the juicy details about their amazing, sustainable coffee for a future post.
Due to food safety regulations, some products have to come in plastic to keep it fresh and free from contamination during transit. Much of the food we stock will come from Suma who have strong policies in place to try and reduce plastic packaging as much as possible in their warehouses and deliveries.
The issue around bulk food packaging is something that will continue to evolve with each order I put through. Wherever possible, I’d expect products to come in strong paper sacks that can be recycled and will challenge any unnecessary packaging that suppliers send to me. I am at the very first step of the shop’s journey and trying to find my feet still. The idea is to continue to move with the times and not stagnate in what is comfortable. If I come across a more sustainable supplier for anything in the shop, including food I will move to them as soon as possible.
I met our local recycling hero, Lara at the first Minimal Waste Market back in January of this year and I’m delighted that the shop will be a Terracycle collection point when we open. Together, we will be feeding our collected recycling to the main South Hants Recycling Hub, which is run by the lovely Melanie. The recycling that is sent to Terracycle raises money for Kicks Count, a charity working to reduce the UK still-birth rates. I'll be writing a full blog about this later in the year.
Please note that if you do bring anything to the shop, it must be clean, dry and labelled with your name and contact information . Your details are in case there is any waste included that we can't take so we can let you know for next time
What I will be taking:
After we open, my first goal is to start looking at food waste and I'm currently thinking composting schemes might be the way forward. If you have any suggestions and recommendations I'd love to hear them! Also, if we can help you at home to reduce, reuse and recycle, such as other collection points or services run through the shop, please do drop me an email or get in touch on social media.
In the meantime, take care everyone and I’ll speak to you soon!