A collection of our thoughts, sharing inspiring refill, reuse, retail & sustainability culture from around the world


 

General Election ’17 Manifesto Pledges- Unpackaged For You!

It’s election time so I thought it might be interesting to have a look at what the main English parties are saying about packaging, waste & the circular economy. On the basis that very few of us have the time (or will) to read the entire manifestos of each party, I’ve pulled out the relevant info but feel free to click on the links if you want to read on. I make no apology for bias (or sarcasm) in my commentary but I promise the statements are unedited from each party’s manifesto!

The Greens are obviously first out of the blocks with their commitment to tackling plastic waste and promoting a culture of reusing and refilling:

“In the UK, 35 million plastic bottles are bought every day – that’s 200 per person every year – and 44% of these are not recycled. This means 16 million plastic bottles every day end up in our environment, whether sent to landfill, incinerated or simply dumped in the countryside, parks, streets or beaches. The Green Party would promote the culture of reusing and refilling, through: the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme; free public water dispensers and a community refill scheme; and an end to unnecessary single-use plastics. Tackling plastic waste sits alongside our long-standing commitment to creating a more circular economy – where recycling and reusing materials become central to our way of life”

Unexpectedly, the Lib Dems’ manifesto also makes explicit reference to both Zero Waste & the circular economy, (although I’m not sure why it’s the “so-called” circular economy?!) I’m reproducing it in full below because it’s very comprehensive and the idea of a Zero Waste Act is really interesting:

Britain’s economy fails to make the most efficient use of natural resources. We aim to cut waste, increase recovery, reuse and recycling and move towards the so-called ‘circular economy’ in which resource use, waste and pollution are minimised and product lifetimes are extended. This will cut costs for consumers and businesses and create new jobs and enterprises, helping to grow Britain’s economy. We will:

  • Pass a Zero Waste Act, including legally-binding targets for reducing net consumption of key natural resources, and introducing incentives for businesses to improve resource efficiency.
  • Benefit consumers by promoting better product design to improve repairability, reuse and recycling.
  • Establish a statutory waste recycling target of 70% in England and extend separate food waste collections to at least 90% of homes by 2022.
  • Building on the success of our plastic bag charge, introduce a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups to reduce waste.
  • Establish a coherent tax and regulatory framework for landfill, incineration and waste collection, including reinstating the Landfill Tax escalator and extending it to the lower rate and consulting on the introduction of an Incineration Tax.
  • Work with local government to ensure these commitments are fully-funded.

To ensure the policies set out in this chapter are implemented, and to put the protection of the environment at the heart of policies across all areas of government, we will establish a Cabinet Committee on Sustainability, chaired by a cabinet minister, establish an Office for Environmental Responsibility to scrutinise the government’s efforts to meets its environmental targets, and place a responsibility on every government agency to account for its contribution towards meeting climate targets in everything it does.”

The Labour Party seem to be focusing a lot on agriculture, clean air and environmental legislation which is presumably a reference to ensuring we maintain similar levels of environmental protection when we leave the EU. There is a reference to “guiding targets” for plastic bottle deposit schemes but I’m not sure what that really means:

Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Conservative legacy of illegal air quality. We will safeguard habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding our island. We will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste”

The Conservatives have taken a different approach, including their environmental policy within an overall focus on community. They do mention “supporting better packaging” but I find it hard to reconcile their lack of detail with this insistence that they’re going to be “the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it” – just because you repeat something often enough, it doesn’t make it true!

We have seen welcome growth and civic renewal in some major cities. Our towns and cities should be healthy, well-designed and well-tended places… We will do more to reduce litter, including by supporting comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling, supporting better packaging, taking new powers to force councils to remove roadside litter and prosecuting offenders. We will do more to improve the quality of road surfaces, filling potholes – especially in residential areas – and reducing road noise. Finally, we pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again”

And finally, I had the pleasure of reading UKIP’s 2017 manifesto, not holding out much hope but *shock horror* there it was – not only a reference to polling day falling on the same day as World Oceans Day but a pledge to investigate the introduction of a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles. Alas it’s not enough for me to balance out the extreme negativity/ racism of the rest of their pledges and for that reason I’m not quoting them or putting a link to their site. But I will applaud this small inclusion.

So, what have we learnt? The party most likely to win has the least amount of detail and thinks that “strong and stable” statements are enough – well they’re not… The Greens are taking it a level up and talking about a “culture” of refilling and reuse, which is certainly where our hearts lie… Labour need to pull their socks up and get with the Circular Economy programme. The Lib Dems have great ideas, backed up with proper detail for which they should be applauded. And even UKIP are in on the DRS act. In fact, that seems to be the main thing we’ve learnt. The focus is, by and large, on water bottles and whether a Deposit Return Scheme could be introduced to tackle the insane amount of single use plastics we throw away as a country, so industry beware, change is coming.

 

ZERO WASTE TALK and Q&A by BEA JOHNSON, 12th March 2017

 

Unpackaged is proud to present, for the first time in London, Bea Johnson – the founder of the Zero Waste Movement.

We will be hosting her inspirational talk, Q&A and book signing in Bloomsbury, Central London.

On the night we will also be highlighting innovative projects and brands in our exclusive Zero Waste showcase.

 

Tickets via Eventbrite here.

Join the Facebook event page here.

 

Timetable (exact timings subject to change)

5pm – Doors Open

5pm – Zero Waste Showcase

6.30pm – Bea Johnson’s Talk and Q&A

8.30pm – Book Signing, Networking & Zero Waste Showcase

10pm – Event Closes

An Introduction to Zero Waste Shopping, Wed 25th May, 7pm

We’re hosting a Zero Waste event at Planet Organic on Wed 25th May 7pm – 8pm.

http://www.planetorganic.com/upcoming-events/

Particularly aimed at people who’ve always wanted to give Zero Waste/ refilling a go but are a bit unsure where to start!

The evening will start with a brief introduction to the philosophy and goals of the Zero Waste movement – why should we care about packaging? And what small lifestyle changes can we make to make a more positive environmental impact?

Catherine will then show you how to refill in-store – how the bulk dispensers work and how to “tare” your containers.

You’ll be a refilling pro in no time and, as an additional reward, enjoy 10% off your Unpackaged purchases on the night.

When you’ve secured your event ticket:
1. Click here to see the product list of everything we sell so you can have a think about what you want to purchase on the night.
2. Put together a bag of containers to bring on the night – these could be cloth bags, old takeaway containers or jars; as well as your empty Ecover household bottles. Just make sure you clean and dry your containers before you come.

If you have any questions before the event, please email [email protected] and we’ll be pleased to help.

Unpackaged 9th Anniversary Newsletter – December 2015

Nine Years & Counting…

Can you believe it has been nine years since Unpackaged began? November each year sees our anniversary and I seem to always forget to stop and take stock, but nine years suddenly feels like a very long time!

From the kernel of an idea; to market stalls; a small shop; a larger shop and now our supermarket partnership with Planet Organic – it has certainly been a rollercoaster ride as we have birthed this idea into retail culture.

When we started, there was no Zero Waste movement, no blogs telling people how to live a plastic free lifestyle, we were very much the lone voice. But what we found was you – our amazing customers – who also want to shop without packaging, you have supported us all along and proved that things can be different.

Our ambition remains the same as we move into our 10th year – our sights are firmly set on the mainstream and how to make shopping ‘Unpackaged’ as normal as popping to the supermarket.

 

A European Network 

Last week, with the climate change talks going on in Paris, I found myself in Berlin, talking to partners about how to collaborate on a European level and develop our packaging free sector. There tends to be a desire for everyone to say that they were the ‘first'; but my message is that the more we group ourselves as a movement; the more mainstream retailers will see this as a growing trend that can’t be ignored.

In that vein, our friends Bepakt in the Netherlands have produced this map showing how many Unpackaged-style shops now exist all over Europe. The majority of the boom has happened in the last 3 years or so. It’s hard to say how, or why, something suddenly gathers the necessary momentum but its amazing to think how many customers are now able to live a Zero Waste lifestyle thanks to all these incredible pioneers – as everyone is finding out, running one of these shops is no easy task!

We’re looking at lots of different ways to work together in 2016 so watch this space!

So all that remains for me to say is have a wonderful, Unpackaged, Christmas and may we all look forward to a bright 2016. We’ll be back in January with news about new products at Planet Organic & our Circular Economy work.

Best wishes,

Catherine & The Team

Why we should all welcome the 5p carrier bag tax…

 …but is it the best way to achieve long-term behaviour change?

 

Today’s introduction of a compulsory 5p carrier bag levy is good news for environmentalists.

At Unpackaged, we really don’t mind admitting that we hate (yes, strong word) single use carrier bags and get pretty annoyed by the businesses that give them out without asking, but ultimately its great marketing for them so why would they stop? When the average use time for a plastic bag is about 20 minutes, but it takes 1,000 years to biodegrade, it’s simply financially and environmentally irresponsible to waste resources in this way.

It’s heartbreaking to see the great plastic soup in the Pacific, to know how many seabirds, fish and organisms in the sea are ingesting the broken down plastics; not even taking into account the fact that all this plastic is ultimately ending up in our food, with all the problems that poses for human health.

Today the English government has finally followed Wales (2011), Ireland (2013) & Scotland (2014) by introducing a levy in the hope of reducing the 8.5billion plastic bags used each year. Seriously – that’s about 23million a day in the UK – can you even imaging what that amounts to globally?

Businesses can decide what to do with the funds raised from the 5p levy – most are expected to donate monies to local or environmental charities. The levy is hoped to raise over 700 million pounds for good causes which, added to a potential 60m reduction in litter-picking costs and associated 13m carbon emissions savings, is good news all round. And especially good for the Government as the bags carry VAT meaning 1p for every bag goes to the Treasury.

Retailers will have to provide annual reports on the number of bags supplied, the monies raised and where the funds end up, so it will be fascinating to see how the big retailers stack up against each other in a year’s time – they’ll be simultaneously trying to show how few bags they gave out, but how much money they raised for good causes – because ultimately its designed to reflect well on them.

But, whereas the other nations introduced a blanket ban, our government seems to have made it insanely complicated. Various products are exempt, it only covers 0.007mm plastic bags (so not paper bags) and small retailers are exempt – which is crazy given that the Association of Convenience Stores and the Federation of Small Businesses show that their members want to be included – many of who will do the right thing and introduce it voluntarily. Our position is that it should have been all bags, all retailers. Wales and Scotland both report an average 80% reduction in disposable bag use since their taxes were implemented, but the complications and exemptions in England mean that the reduction is likely to be significantly less and play into the hands of those who oppose any government intervention.

We read a lot of packaging industry press and, unsurprisingly, the pro-plastic lobby are vociferous in their opposition to any ban, charge or government intervention. Typical arguments include the fact that thin plastic bags are resource efficient and have comparatively lower environmental impacts WHEN PROPERLY RE-USED AND RECYCLED but with the average house having a minimum of 40 bags stashed away, and only a fraction of supermarkets and local councils offering bag recycling, this argument just doesn’t stand up. And what do we want to do – put our efforts into educating consumers about recycling bags, or about reducing and re-using durable bags (i.e. the ultimate aim of the waste hierarchy)?

Whilst we recognize the reality that these are businesses that employ thousands of people who are trying to make a living, its time to move on. There is so much innovation to be had with sustainable design and materials – the packaging industry needs to lead on re-use solutions, inspired by circular economy thinking, for a resource-dwindling world, not try and maintain a status quo that no longer works.

The concept of a levy itself is interesting – plenty of studies have looked at ‘nudge’ economics and whether a ‘carrot/bonus’ or ‘stick/tax’ approach is most likely to yield results.  And this is what we really care about at Unpackaged – how to bring about long-term positive behaviour change.

A study by Tatiana Homonoff at Cornell University looked at retailers in Washington DC finding that a five-cent bag tax “significantly decreased plastic bag use, while a comparable policy offering five-cent bonuses for reusable bag use had negligible effects”. Traditional economics suggests shoppers should react, rationally, in the same way to a five-cent tax or bonus but behavioural economics shows that people “are affected more strongly by perceptions of loss than perceptions of gain” which is why a tax is more effective than a reward.

However, an interesting blog at The Conversative.com develops this argument suggesting that whilst “people modify their behaviour to avoid the stick…the underlying attitudes haven’t changed… fiscal disincentives for environmental issues… are inherently problematic as they do not address attitudes (the problem), they simply address behaviour (the symptom).”

The vision behind Unpackaged has always been to offer an alternative way to shop…

The reality is that refilling requires a different thought-process to convenience shopping, often for no immediate reward other than a knowledge of ‘doing the right thing’. Whilst shoppers save money by only buying the quantity they need, often the prices don’t work out cheaper compared to the supermarkets’ economies of scale (which is why our ultimate dream is to have an Unpackaged in every supermarket!) But, in behaviour change terms, it definitely works as we know that over 60% of our shoppers report shopping more sustainably in other shops because of their experience refilling with us and, with an average in-store refill rate of 80%, we know our shoppers really do want to refill, despite the challenges.

So we welcome England’s carrier bag tax, but we must remember it’s a very small step on a very long road to the real attitudinal change we need in the face of our global environmental challenges.

When Wholefoods moved to Detroit…

I read this fascinating article about what happened when Wholefoods moved into Detroit.

It’s well worth a read as it brings together all the issues we care about here at Unpackaged – food supply, price, health, the growing gap between rich and poor and what that means for the food choices you have, the subsidies big businesses get from the government to open stores, gentrification, why good food costs more

I won’t give you my cod analysis – it’s all in here, read the full article: http://thefern.org/2014/11/whole-foods-comes-to-detroit/

America’s Shrinking Farms – A great little documentary!

I should probably learn how to write jazzier blog titles but this documentary is fantastic – 18 minutes of innovation and solutions to the problems we face.

At the start when an academic reminds us that “the Human species needs the size of South America to raise its food” you remember the scale of the problem…

As Roy Choi says – you’ve gotta fight that shit man.

Watch it here: https://collectively.org/en/video/americas-shrinking-farms-food-documentary/

(Tweet them @_collectively and be part of the food revolution! http://bit.ly/1Gw8W61)

Sit up, take a deep breath and do something…

Popping Marvellous

One of the problems of the zero waste lifestyle comes when you’ve had a hard day at work, you’ve collapsed in front of the (I’d love to say something high brow…) telly, and you just want a little snack.

You’re options are – go to the shop and buy something horrid, packaged and full of delicious yet horrible processed ingredients. Or you go to the health food shop and get something made of lovely ingredients but still packaged. Or you sit there feeling guilty that you really should hand make from scratch your own biscuits/ cake/ snack but its 9pm on a Wednesday and you’re too tired to stand up, but oh the packaging, oh the guilt of it all.

In these moments we reach for our trusty jar of popcorn (refilled at Unpackaged Planet Organic of course). It’s cheap as chips, sooo quick to make and easy to adulterate with all sorts of things from your cupboard to cheer you up.

You could pretty much combine any of the following and still get something good – cocoa powder, butter, sea salt, coconut oil, cinnamon, lime, chilli…

And if you want to get super fancy, feast your eyes on the popcorn page of one of our favourite websites Tastespotting and see what amazing recipes people have posted.

x

 

Chia Goodness – Why this little grain packs a mighty punch!

Starting our series of focusing on all the amazing Unpackaged products we sell – this week, chia seeds!

Chia is a tasteless, gluten-free seed native to central and southern America where it has been cultivated for hundreds of years and known for its medicinal uses. It gained popularity in recent years as a new superfood, but knowing what to do with it and why we should be eating it is less clear.

Don’t be fooled by its size, because this tiny seed is highly nutritious. It is a complete protein, contains good amounts of the omega 3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), soluble fibre, antioxidants, calcium, phosphorus and manganese.

Read the full blog here: http://www.planetorganic.com/all-about-chia-seeds/

And look out for their amazing Red Raspberry Chia Fresca recipe at the bottom of the blog.

Unpackaged is Hiring!

Thank you all for your applications – this position is now filled. (12/05/15)

Would you like to work for Unpackaged? We’re looking for someone to work on weekends running the Unpackaged section at Planet Organic, Muswell Hill – a temporary contract initially for 3 months.

 

JOB DESCRIPTION

Job Title:                 Team Member, Unpackaged (temporary)

Job Purpose:

Provide outstanding customer service; assist in the handling of stock, deliveries and maintenance of the Unpackaged section & warehouse to company standards.

Responsible To:  Store Manager

 

Principal Accountabilities

Operations

  • Stock the Unpackaged section & maintain it looking attractive at all times
  • Work in the Unpackaged section communicating with Planet Organic customers – explaining the benefits of the Unpackaged concept and how refilling works
  • Upsell the Unpackaged section to maximise sales
  • Contribute to achieving the departmental targets and objectives

Marketing/ Tastings

Work with the Unpackaged & Planet Organic teams to deliver an in store marketing plan to promote the new Unpackaged section to customers.

Customer Service Standards

  • Know and demonstrate Planet Organic’s customer service standards
  • Contribute to the team’s effectiveness to deliver the company’s service standards
  • Provide customer assistance in other areas of the store as required

People, Training & Development

  • Develop one’s own product knowledge of Unpackaged products
  • Attend/complete trainings as necessary

Merchandising & Stock Management

  • Replenish the Unpackaged section maintaining it as clean, attractive and refilled at all times
  • Ordering: create a weekly order list to handover to the Planet Organic team
  • Assist with periodic stock takes of the Unpackaged section as required; this may require working additional hours from time to time

Systems & Procedures

  • Follow correct opening and closing procedures
  • Operate/handle all equipment correctly and safely
  • Follow correct procedures for receiving and checking deliveries and ensure paperwork is processed in line with company policy
  • Maintain hygiene standards: cleaning the Unpackaged section according to the schedule; breaking down boxes as necessary; clearing any spills on the shop floor
  • Complete due diligence procedures: date checks and price checks as required

Additional Duties

  • Any other additional tasks that may be required

Remuneration

Days of Work: Saturdays & Sundays (3 months initially, immediate start)

Hours of Work: 10.30am – 6.30pm (includes 30 min paid lunch break)

Hourly Rate: £7.00 per hour

Benefits: All staff receive 25% off any purchases at Planet Organic

 

How To Apply 

Please send a CV and a short one page covering letter explaining why you have a passion for Unpackaged and why you would be perfect for the role to [email protected]

You must have fluent English and be able to prove that you are eligible to work in the UK.

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© Unpackaged 2017