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The fight against waste: the first packaging-
free supermarket

Germans generate over 16 million tonnes of packaging waste every year. The figure for the UK is over 10 million tonnes. But there are people and organisations determined to do something about these scary figures. Resourceful retailers are taking action too, they sell their goods either partly or completely without packaging, just as the local corner shop used to. The trend has a lot of support, for example thousands of supporters contributed to raise over 100 000 euros to set up a packaging-free supermarket, “Original Unverpackt”, which will be ready to open in late summer in Berlin.

From the farm to the fork – with no
packaging waste

2014 might be the year when packaging-free shopping took off – in February Frenchwoman Marie Delaperrière opened a supermarket in Kiel, in northern Germany, where all products are offered as far as possible without packaging. The store is called “Unverpackt” (Unpackaged). In May, Hilke and Tim Deinet opened their packaging-free supermarket “Freikost” in Bonn. In Berlin too there are businesses like “Dr. Pogo” and “Biosphäre” that have long offered some of their products without packaging. Then there’s the “Original Unverpackt” supermarket run by Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski also in Berlin, which will be the first supermarket totally without disposable packaging. Sara and Milena are working to avoid packaging waste along the entire supply chain from the field to the fork. They raised over 100 000 euros through crowdfunding to help finance the supermarket and they’re hoping to open branches in the future.

Fill your own

The basic method for buying most “bulk” products – from pasta and muesli to shampoo and detergent – is that customers bring their own containers, fill them with whatever they want to buy. The containers are weighed at the checkout and the customer pays accordingly. Beverages are available either in returnable bottles or in customers’ containers. Creams will also be sold on a ‘fill-your-own basis. Customers can either bring their own containers, or buy or borrow them from the supermarket. German food safety laws allow this; “the supermarket operator must merely make sure that the product is not hygienically impacted by the customer’s container,” says Andreas Tief from the German Federal Consumer Affairs Ministry. A representative of Original Unverpackt explained that customer containers for foods such as butter or cheese are cleaned in the supermarket before they’re used. As an additional food safety measure, customers don’t cut the butter and cheese for themselves, instead this is done by supermarket employees.

No frozen foods

It remains to be seen whether the idea of packaging free supermarkets catches on. Customers must be prepared not to find certain products, such as frozen food and fish, although future plans do include a meat counter. Moreover customers must be prepared to spend more time in the supermarket, because filling and weighing take time. They weigh their own containers as the basis for subsequently weighing the product, which is done by the cashier. The supermarket operator assures the public that the products sold loose will cost the same as or less than packaged goods.


Source: Stiftung Warentest

Photos: Original Unverpackt UG