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.
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 have been popping up over London for a few years now. Sadly, many of them took a hit during the pandemic, which is all the more reason to get out there and support zero waste shops! All you need to do is bring along your own produce bags or food containers to refill. You can also just reuse old jars (firstly removing the labels). Here are some of our favourite stores, sorted by area:
Various London Locations
Battersea, Chiswick, Crouch End, Putney, Richmond, West Hampstead
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 500 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!
Muswell Hill, Queens Park, Islington, Westbourne Grove, Chiswick, Ealing, Balham, Spitalfields, Bermondsey, Broadway Market and Hampstead
Planet Organic’s London shops introduced the Unpackaged concept in 2015. They've now grown so much that 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 11 stores!
Stoke Newington, Hearne Hill
Jess's mission is to reduce single-use packaging waste “one jarr at a time”. She works only with suppliers that have closed-loop systems. Bulk goods are sent in tubs that are sent back when empty (often in electric vans) to be washed and refilled, cutting out waste altogether!
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. The large supermarket underwent a full refurbishment in 2023, and is looking shiny and new with loads of refill options. Get down there with your canvas bags and support them!
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!
Elephant and Castle
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.
Brixton Wholefoods do washing liquid refills, as well as loose herbs and spices, amongst other things. They are a lovely independent business who have been in Brixton for over 40 years and definitely worth checking out!
Inspired by the mantra "Be the Change You Want to See" Tanya opened BYO in 2018, and was astounded by the huge response. After briefly having to close down in 2022, BYO re-opened under new management. 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!
This award-winning zero waste shop is just a short walk from Peckham Rye station. Here you can stock up on everything from laundry liquid and body wash, to cereals, rice and grains and much more. They even have wine!
Naked Larder in Herne Hill offers a different and really affordable approach to zero waste shopping with their click and collect service. Their product range includes all kinds of food, wine, cleaning and personal care products. Who says zero waste shopping isn't convenient?
Hackney Wick and Stratford
This fabulous zero waste shop in east London is so popular that they've just opened up a second store in East Village, Stratford. Their offering includes non-organic products which are cheaper and make it more affordable to shop package free!
Hackney (Bethnal Green Tube)
Get Loose is located at Hackney City Farm. Super small but packs a lot in, from dried food, cleaning products and toiletries. They're a social enterprise staffed by volunteers, fully committed to the reduction of waste in the supply chain, and bringing the community together.
SWOP - short for Shop Without Packaging – sells household staples and seasonal treats without packaging. The founders, Claire and Jess, are two mums who were so fed up with litter they decided to do something about it.
Above: SWOP was South East London's first zero waste shop!
Carnaby, West End
Zero waste shopping has hit the west end! Earthly Matters opened recently with its cute pink shopfront. Encouraging customers to bring their own containers, the store stocks food such as nuts, grains and breakfast cereals and sustainable products including immune boosting vitamins, vegan proteins and nutritional powders.
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!
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!