Have you heard of zero-waste supermarkets? A growing number of these establishments are providing practical solutions to the problem of packaging waste. Supermarket food packaging is largely unrecyclable, meaning the majority of it ends up in landfills or incinerators. This issue is compounded by the fact that many supermarkets over-package products. Perhaps you are one of many people who’ve wondered why shops will put plastic wrap fresh fruit and vegetables when they already have naturally protective skins?

Thoughts like these are what prompted me to look into zero-waste supermarkets in my area, and recently I finally decided to visit one. The Clean Kilo in Digbeth sells a wide range of groceries including locally grown vegetables, fruit, bread, cereals, grains, nuts and seeds, all without any plastic packaging. I went in and asked how it works: customers can either bring in their own containers or take some from the shelves and pay for them at the end. Many of the products are sold by weight, so containers are weighed before you start and this weight is subtracted from the total at checkout. The idea is that customers re-use their containers every time they shop, removing the need for the food to be packaged in store. I started simple for my first trip, filling four jars with chickpeas, quinoa, lentils and black beans. However, I was surprised at what else was available; you could pick up all sorts of herbs and spices, vegan chocolates and even liquids like orange juice and wine. I found browsing products in this environment to be a lot more straightforward as there aren’t multiple brands all vying for your attention with loud packaging. The clear dispensers allow you to see exactly what you’re getting without any confusion. Once I was done filling up it was simple, the smart tills worked the price of the amounts in my jars and I paid.

When I got home and started cooking I realised another advantage to this approach: it cuts down on food waste. Since you can measure out what you’re buying in store it means you only need to buy exactly as much as you need. Once you know the measurements for each of your meals you can purchase the perfect amount so none of it goes to waste.

I definitely recommend giving zero-waste shopping a try and seeing if you fall in love like I have.