Recycling is good, but precycling is even better. That is the mindset of package free shops, like Robuust and Ohne in Belgium or Original Unverpackt in Germany.
In Flanders, Belgium, households are responsible for an average of 513 kilograms of waste each year. A considerable part of this amount is due to packaging materials. And more than half of those materials are only used once…
Package free shops tackle the problem of waste at the root by taking packaging out of the production process. This allows them to save on natural resources, to reduce the amount of CO2 and to decrease the amount of leftovers and trash. Furthermore, package free shops prove to their clients that a sustainable lifestyle can be fun, time saving and cost effective.
Of course, when the goods in a store are delivered without any packaging at all, an alternative solution is necessary. Which is why package free stores ask you to bring your own container(s) – Tupperware boxes, jars, bottles, sealable cups, … - to the shop. Some stores also sell reusable packaging materials, like bottles, jars, linen bags and so on.
When you enter the shop, your empty container needs to be weighted first. In some cases, the weight is noted on a label, which can be
attached to the container. Next, you can fill up the container(s) with the product(s) you like. When checking out, the weight of the empty container is subtracted, so you only pay for the content.
Robuust sells more than products alone, they sell a way of life. At Robuust, customers can find seasonal fruits & vegetables as well as dry foods, such as rice, pasta, sugar, tea and coffee. Robuust also sells dairy products and beverages such as beer, wine and natural juices. The dry goods are stored in silos and bins. Using a tap, customers can easily fill up their containers. Other goods, like pasta, sugar and salt are stored in sealed bins.
Five young people in Ghent, Belgium, each individually wanted to start a package free store. Quite by chance they all met, and decided to start a store together. Ohne is based on three pillars: using as little packaging as possible, realising short production chains and selling bio products. Next to food, Ohne also sells cleaning products and cosmetics. Ohne wants to persuade consumers to change their habits and adopt to a more sustainable lifestyle. And by focusing on local production, ecological profits can be realised as transport and extra packaging are avoided.
Founders Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski of the Original Unverpackt store in Berlin say there is a rising demand for sustainable products and services. In their store, everything the consumer needs is offered, in a similar way to the Robuust and Ohne stores in Belgium. But as opposed to the offerings of a ‘classic’ supermarket, you will not find excessive product ranges, such as hundreds of different types of body lotion or olive oil, in the Original Unverpackt Store.