The Zero Waste Grocery Store

Most grocery stores have a bulk food section of perhaps a couple of rows and limited to a few categories of dry goods. Even specialty stores like those in Canada’s Bulk Barn chain offer a fairly narrow range of dry goods and products like peanutbutter and honey. Imagine though, that concept taken store- and product-wide, where absolutely everything is offered from bulk bins? That’s the basic model followed by a new retail trend, the “zero waste” grocery store, which goes way beyond offering reusable bags or a few items to eliminating non-resusable packaging all together.

So far, it’s a trend taken up by smaller operations like Simply Bulk Market of Colorado, or the Brothers Lane LLC group, who plan to open a store under the name “In.gredient” late in 2011 in Austin, Texas. Everything is offered in bins, with customers bringing their own or purchasing reusable containers – and naturally a reusable bag to take it home in. The zero waste grocery store is already fairly well established in Europe, with chains like Effecorta of Italy, where you can buy everything from cosmetic creams to soap, milk and the usual staples in bulk.

What all these existing examples have in common is a reliance on locally grown and produced goods, along with an emphasis on organics. Along with eliminating packaging and eating better, the benefits are several.

–          It has implications for reduction in the use of fuel and pollution from transportation

–          It will reduce consumer waste – estimated at over 25% in the U.S. – since you’ll be able to buy as much or as little as you need

–          It reduces the overall carbon footprint of the grocery business

In the U.S., it’s estimated that 570 million pounds of food packaging ends up in landfills each day. Zero waste grocery stores are one effective way of combating that issue.