First UK Supermarket To Introduce Plastic Free Zones

First UK Supermarket To Introduce Plastic Free Zones

By Sofy Robertson

A supermarket in North London has become the first in Britain to introduce plastic-free zones.

In a move that campaigners hope will spur the giant chains to follow, Thornton Budgens in Belsize Park has converted more than 1700 product lines to non-plastic packaging over the past ten weeks. This forms part of the store’s journey to fulfil the promise of becoming virtually plastic-free within three years.

With support from local resident celebrities Jim Broadbent and Dame Janet Suzman, the supermarket claims that it has become a “public experiment” in how to retail food more sustainably.

This announcement follows the introduction of the world’s first plastic-free aisle in an Amsterdam supermarket last February.

Following Philip Hammond’s announcement in the Budget last week that he would introduce a tax on so-called virgin plastics, Thornton Budgens is offering everything from crisps, vegetables and cheese to game meats in non-plastic packaging.

Owner of the Budgens store, Andrew Thornton, said:

 “We’re hoping that what we’re doing here will challenge the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and others.” (The Telegraph)

Old-fashioned looking paper bags made from cellulose, the structural component of cell walls in green plants, has been used to replace most of the plastics. However for the store’s 300 different cheeses, a new wax packaging has been developed.

Co-founder of the campaign group A Plastic Planet, Sian Sutherland, has been working with Thornton Budgens to help implement the changes. She said:

“It’s the big brands that are like snails with their pace of change. What we are doing is an open door for new packaging technology.”

Sutherland is convinced that the success of Thornton Budgens will counter the claims that progress on plastics can only be made incrementally. With their “public experiment”, Thornton Budgens can show other food stores, whether small-scale or super, that sustainability is achievable. Sutherland continued:

“We have converted 1,700 product lines in just ten weeks, but that’s just the beginning.”

In Devon, food retailers including The Real Food Store and Nourish have endeavoured to reduce food waste and packaging to make their businesses more sustainable.

The Real Food Store in Exeter engages in a number of ‘green’ practices, including selling ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be rejected by supermarkets and selling these loose, therefore encouraging customers to use re-usable bags. All of their takeaway packaging, such as coffee cups and sandwich boxes, are made from compostable materials. They also return all compost waste to Shillingford Organics where it is recycled into fertiliser and rather than throwing away unsold bread and sandwiches, these are given instead to charities supporting Exeter’s homeless.

Nourish of Topsham is Exeter’s first zero-waste store. From store cupboard foods to household cleaning supplies, customers bring their own vessels or use biodegradable paper bags and fill these with the products of their choice. The store also sells a range of sustainable eating and drinking items, for example bamboo cutlery and re-usable water bottles.

These small-scale local businesses have laid down the challenge for other food stores, demonstrating how feasible it is to operate successfully without plastic.

Is there a sustainable store in your area that deserves championing? Comment on this post to let us know and join the Grow Green movement.


Photo by Guus Baggermans on Unsplash


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