The Refill Revolution
Awareness of plastic pollution is at an all time high thanks to Blue Planet and the recent announcement on the ban of plastic drinking straws, stirrers and cotton buds, coming into effect next year. Whilst this is most definitely a positive change, there are still so many products being produced as a single-use plastic, or wrapped in unrecyclable plastic packaging; particularly food. This is where there is a notable shift towards the refill or unpackaged options for grocery shopping.
At the time of writing this, there are no less than 160 plastic-free, or zero-waste shops and mobile units in the UK, with 5 of these based in Kent. This is by no means a new way of shopping, but it is being revived due to demand. Refill shops are part of the solution to avoid unnecessary single-use plastics as they promote bringing your own containers and bags to fill up on a variety of foods and liquids and pay only for what you need. This doesn't mean going out to buy new Kilner jars, but using what you already have - be it tupperware, jars or an empty gin bottle! This way of shopping stretches beyond food; you can pick up reusable metal straws, loose toothpaste tablets, compostable cleaning cloths and refill your bottles of laundry liquids, washing up liquid and even shampoo and conditioner to save sending perfectly usable bottles to be recycled. You'll even find some zero-waste shops sell fruit and vegetables without any packaging - when was the last time you saw a cucumber without plastic wrapping? Zero Waste Near Me is a great resource for checking where your closest refill shop is, as well as online retailers for zero-waste products.
Whilst zero-waste shops aren't accessible to everyone, there are options to help you avoid single-use plastic packaging. An increasing number of farms shops in Kent are adding refill stations, and you'll often find the majority of fruit and vegetables at farm shops are available loose. Farmers' markets are another great way to shop whilst avoid packaging, and you'll be supporting local producers and cutting down on your carbon footprint at the same time. Some producers even accept their glass jars used for oils and honey back to refill. The Kent Farmers' Market Association has links to plenty of local markets in Kent. You never know, there might be one around the corner from you!
All it takes is one small change in our shopping habits to cut down on our reliance on single-use plastics, so dig out your empty tupperware, empty jam jars and reusable bags and get refilling.
Article by Karen O'Brien - The Eco Pantry