Food shopping unpacked

Courtesy of Unpackaged

Published: 7 Feb 2018

Blogger Justine Rose, who successfully bid in our crowdfunding campaign to write a feature for The ‘Eel, explores the practicalities, and options, for avoiding food packaging.

It’s scary that only about 5% of food packaging is recycled and that about 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans each year. Then there are the issues of greenhouse gas emissions, and non-degradable, oil-based products ending up as landfill…

Blue Planet II helped to bring the negative impact of this scourge to mainstream attention and research by #PlasticFreeAisle has found that nine out of ten people would support supermarkets having a plastic-free section, but for now, how do we avoid it?


A growing number of shops offer much more than just meat, fish, bread and deli items without packaging. Many are small, independent retailers, which help to support their local economies and communities. The Store Cupboard at Crystal Palace Food Market, for example, is a co-operative.

Hetu in Clapham Junction specialises in vegan foods. Founder Laura says “our aim is to be a one stop shop for people who care about their health, the planet and all those that inhabit it.” Alongside its Real Bread, E5 Bakehouse in London Fields in stocks a wide range of Hodmedod’s British-grown beans and pulses from gravity dispensers.

Loose food revival pioneer Unpackaged can now be found at Planet Organic. Founder Catherine Conway says: “Having operated as an independent store, we are now focused on partnerships with larger retailers as we fulfill our mission of bringing zero waste to mainstream audience.”


There’s no need to buy anything new to collect your shopping, simply clean and save what you already have, such as jars, takeaway containers, bottles, egg boxes and paper bags. Social enterprise Bulk Market in Hackney even provides a space for you to leave empty containers for other shoppers. When buying unpackaged meat, fish and deli items, consider whether you need leak-proof containers. For fruit and vegetables make simple bags from old fabric; search online for inspiration, or buy them readymade.

Find (and add) local loose food shops using the Zero Waste app, and enjoy getting to know the staff, who may well remember customers with their own containers more easily. If you can’t find one locally, vist Reyouzable and use their online postcode search to see if they’ll deliver to your postcode in reusable containers, or ones you provide.

Save money by only buying what you need, cutting down food waste with fewer leftovers to be forgotten, and help save our seas – get unpacked!

Article by Little Green Duckie

Feeling inspired?

Try some of these easy ideas:

  • Use your own bags for fruit and veg
  • Take containers along when buying unpackaged meat, fish and deli items
  • Explore your local shops for zero waste offerings, and ask them to consider stocking more loose items
  • Add what you find to the Zero Waste app or Facebook groups

Join one of the Facebook groups; Zero Waste Heroes, Journey to Zero Waste UK or Zero Waste Greater London

This feature first appeared in The Jellied Eel magazine issue 56, February 2018