If you’re anything like us, you’re sick of buying food swaddled in layers of plastic. Luckily, there are plenty of zero waste shops in London embracing "bulk shopping", where you can reduce packaging waste by refilling your own containers with dry goods like rice, pasta, nuts, pulses and even chocolate. Find one near you and take your zero waste grocery shop to the next level!
While it might seem like an innovative step, the refill idea actually takes us back to the old way to shop. That’s why zero waste shops, with their appealing, unpackaged goods, have such a lovely nostalgic feel.
These shops are popping up all over London. All you need to do is bring along your own food storage containers to refill with anything you need. And if you can’t find a zero waste shop near you, there are online delivery options as well. Here are some of our favourite spots (in no particular order).
This north London shop became the world’s first mainstream supermarket to introduce plastic-free zones and bulk refills, working in partnership with A Plastic Planet. It’s a powerful stance in keeping with the store’s community-centred caring outlook. Get down there with your canvas bags and support them!
These gorgeous zero waste shops, with various London locations, are committed to helping you start your journey to a plastic free lifestyle (just like us!) and stock over 400 bulk foods to help you on the way. They even have delicious zero waste snacks like yoghurt-coated berries. If they're a bit far away for you, they also do online deliveries across the UK.
Above: The Source Bulk Foods in Battersea stocks over 400 bulk goods!
Thanks to the Loop concept, zero waste shopping has officially gone mainstream! They deliver everyday essentials from your favourite brands in reusable packaging, straight to your doorstep. The packaging is then picked up, cleaned and reused. After starting out in the US and France, they finally had their UK launch in July 2020. If you're struggling to convert friends who see zero waste as a "hippie" lifestyle, the convenience of Loop and their well-known brands might just do it!
Above: Loop UK is reinventing the milkman model for the 21st century!
With As Nature Intended you can’t use distance as an excuse – there are seven zero waste shops all over London (Balham, Chiswick, Dulwich, Ealing, Marble Arch, Spitalfields and Westfield in Stratford) selling plastic free products including coffee, cereals, pulses, beans and nuts. Use one of their recyclable bags or bring your own container to fill.
Five of Planet Organic’s London shops have introduced the Unpackaged concept (Muswell Hill, Westbourne Grove, Islington, Queens Park and Torrington Place) so you’re likely to have one near you. Catherine Conway, who founded Unpackaged, was one of the pioneers of zero waste in the UK - she first opened a bulk shop in London way back in 2006!
Above: Planet Organic have launched Unpackaged in 5 stores!
This fabulous zero waste shop in east London sells only goods free from packaging. It has everything your landfill-hating heart could imagine, from the usual dried goods to syrups, honeys, yoghurts and even cream. All refillable! It started life as a pop-up, but managed to raise crowd funding and now has a permanent home in vibrant Hackney.
Inspired by the mantra "Be the Change You Want to See" Tanya opened BYO in 2018, and was astounded by the huge response. The name stands for "Bring Your Own", and customers can fill their own containers with a range of vegan products. With Tooting ranked as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world by Lonely Planet, it's worth the trip to trendy Tooting Market in South London to check out this refill shop.
Above: Based in Tooting Market, BYO makes big change easy!
Frustrated by packaging waste, Luke and Nick wanted to make zero waste shopping as easy as possible and asked themselves "if not now, when?". Their online groceries are delivered by bike and in upcycled sacks, and all containers are picked up, washed and reused. inn currently deliver to South London, but are growing fast - check out their website for the latest delivery map.
Above: Who knew online groceries could be charming and sustainable!
Where health food and zero waste meet you’ll find this great north London shop. While not fully packaging free yet, they have plenty on offer for you to refill to your heart’s content. As well as spices, grains, beans and nuts they also have pasta, toiletries and cleaning product refills.
Also based in north London, this amazing shop has a range of sustainable and vegan options, and a helpful team of staff. For the lazy zero wasters among us, we especially love their Jar Drop service. You can order online, drop off your jars, go to the park (or pub!) and then pick up your pre-filled jars later.
Above: KILO have a clever App that makes zero waste shopping easy!
This alternative store in Elephant and Castle claims to be an ‘experiment in community’ rather than a shop; either way, it offers you a fair selection of loose food in bins as well as unpackaged washing powder.
Have you visited any of these refill shops? Do you know of any zero waste shop near you that deserves a mention? Share in the comments below and support them!