'Zero waste and packaging' retail food model divides opinion
EXCLUSIVE Plans to open a 'zero waste' food store in Belgium next month have been met with mixed reaction by food waste campaigners in the UK.
The store in Antwerp, called Robust, will sell groceries and non-food products without plastic packaging, according to news site DeMorgen.be. The aim is to encourage customers to bring their own packaging to transport the goods in - however should they forget to do so, they will be able to purchase glass jars and containers from the store.
In these so-called 'zero waste' stores, the price of goods is determined according to the weight of the unpackaged products by, for example, the use of bulk bins.
However sustainability consultant Julia Hailes thinks the initiative is 'a rotten idea'. Speaking to edie, she said: "It sounds appealing to people who don't understand the full impacts of packaging through the supply chain. If they're handing out glass jars, they have to consider cleaning and transporting the heavy jars - which will be far more than if they were plastic.
"But most importantly, I think this will lead to far more food waste - and that has a much bigger impact than waste packaging. One supermarket tried no packaging on fruit and veg - and it increased food waste in-store by 50%. And that's without considering how the food is transported to the store in the first place."
Food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart believes the store isn't trying to tackle food waste across the supply chain, but rather raise awareness around packaging issues.
"It may help and provide an antidote to the claims being made by many plastic packaging companies that their products reduce food waste by extending shelf life, which is belied by both the fact that often this simply means more products can be transported over longer distances and the fact that packaging is often the cause of food waste," he told edie.
He pointed out that pack size is often cited by people as a cause of food waste in the home by encouraging people to buy more than they want. "If it encourages people to think about all these things - and no doubt it will - it's a good thing."
The challenge in making it work, he said, was that the business model requires people to bring their own containers into the store. "The success of this will depend a lot on successful marketing, not just whether it makes sense."
A national food retailer in the UK was also approached by edie for its views on adopting a similar model, but declined to comment.