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


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.


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 info@beunpackaged.com 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.



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 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


  • 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


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 jobs@beunpackaged.com

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

Scarcity-Waste at Somerset House

This looks well worth a visit:

The Syngenta Photography Award is a celebration of artistic skill and outstanding photography which aims to draw attention to, and stimulate dialogue around, key global challenges. This year’s award invited professional and amateur photographers from all over the world to submit applications responding to the theme of ‘Scarcity-Waste’.

In the past 50 years, our demands on the natural world have doubled. Many of us are barely aware of the fragility of the resources we depend upon for our survival. While resource scarcity is evident everywhere, it sits alongside enormous waste. As nearly one billion people go to bed hungry worldwide, others are wasting over half of the food they buy. The award called for photographs that tell stories about scarcity and waste and the tensions and relationships between them. Photographers, whatever their approach, were invited to interpret this theme to spark dialogue about our changing planet.

The six finalists (Mustafah Abdulaziz, Richard Allenby-Pratt, Rasel Chowdhury, Stefano De Luigi, Camille Michel and Benedikt Partenheimer) were chosen by a distinguished international jury, chaired by photography curator and writer William A. Ewing and selected from a shortlist of more than 2,000 entries.

Alongside the finalists, the exhibition also presents some of the most thought-provoking and powerful responses to the subject, ranging from the impact of population growth and climate change to the increasing demand on natural resources and food waste.

The 42 photographers from 21 countries represented in the exhibition not only illustrate the ’Scarcity-Waste’ theme in striking and ambitious ways, but also take on the role of courageous advocates, showing deep concern for our planet. Taken together, their 90 images provide a unique voice to one of the greatest challenges the world faces: how in a world that is so desperately short of resources can we ensure that there is enough land, food and water for everyone and for future generations?

11 March – 10 April 2015
Daily 10.00-18.00 (last entry 17.15), until 18.30 (last entry 17.45) on 11 March
East Wing Galleries, East Wing
Free admission

Unpackaged March 2015 Newsletter

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After a year, Unpackaged is back, so it’s hello to our old subscribers and welcome to our new friends.

We have taken the time away to regroup and rethink as we still believe that the Unpackaged refill model is viable. Indeed, with all the environmental challenges our world faces, it seems more necessary than ever! But to really make a difference, it needs to be mainstream and that’s where our focus is now.

So, it is with great pleasure that we announce the first Unpackaged collaboration with our friends at Planet Organic in Muswell Hill.  We both believe that the key to getting refilling into the mainstream is ease, convenience & self-service.

With that in mind we have developed a completely automated, self-service refill area – the first in the world. Planet Organic are the first UK chain to really put their weight behind the idea that refilling could work in a supermarket setting – with the right technology and demand from customers.

Unpackaged Needs You!
Come and give it a go. If you believe what we’re doing is important then come and vote with your wallet to send a signal to other retailers that this is what customers want. Planet Organic is a lovely business with a real focus on exciting, alternative healthy foods, so you’ll see new products that we didn’t sell before. Check out our product range here, bring your own containers and please do give us your feedbackon the self service.

Planet Organic, 111/117 Muswell Hill Road, London, N10 3HS (Map)

Tag yourself refilling on social media:
#planetrefill @unpackaged @planetorganicuk

We’ll be bringing you all our news in our monthly emails and do follow us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.

It’s good to be back!

Very best wishes,

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© Unpackaged 2017