PUT AN (IMAGINARY) hand up if you’re sick of seeing supermarket shelves full of plastic. I sure am: fruit, vegetables, cheese, coconuts – you name it, they’ll package it. But why? Because it’s free advertising space, mostly, but also for our convenience and sometimes hygiene. We love to grab items on the go with zero fuss, but this only proliferates the problem, encouraging food vendors to wrap things up that don’t need to be – often in an unrecyclable ball of planet-destroying trash. Making a conscious decision to avoid plastic-wrapped products can be very limiting in a regular store and takes planning to execute.
Thankfully, the food-waste revolution has led to the opening of several new bulk-buy and unpacked food stores across London, which provide a base of good ingredients for a monthly dry goods shop, as well as helping people save money and reduce waste. These shops still buy their food in packaging, but the larger sizes they purchase dramatically reduce the amount that gets thrown away.
Take along your packaging kit (mentioned in my first column), including tote bags, tubs, jars and cloth, then fill them with loose grains, sugar, nuts and seeds. You’ll find you save a few bucks shopping this way.
If you want to drop the cost of your shopping further, as well as reducing your plastic usage, try setting up a buying co-op with a few local friends to purchase wholesale items in bulk from a food cooperative like Suma. Opening an account with friends will mean you can share the cost of larger items and split them between you, using much less packaging than if you all bought individually wrapped products in store.
Five London bulk-buy shops
Fareshares Food Co-op, 56 Crampton Street, SE17 3AE; fareshares.org.uk
E5 Bakehouse, Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace, E8 3PH; e5bakehouse.com
Unpackaged at Planet Organic, several London stores; planetorganic.com
Brixton Wholefoods, 59 Atlantic Road, SW9 8PU; brixtonwholefoods.com
Suma, online only; suma.coop