(NaturalNews) It is a concept that has a long way to go before it gains wide acceptance in the U.S. and throughout the West, but it is nonetheless a reality now in Germany: The country has seen the opening of its first waste-free supermarket.
And by waste-free, that mostly means "packaging-free."
According to the store's website, the store bills itself as "Original Unpacked," priding itself as a retailer whose products do not come in disposable packing.
"No disposable cups, no shrink-wrapped vegetables, no plastic bags in cardboard boxes and no Tetrapacks. How this will work? It's simple. The foods are kept in so-called bulk bins and can be transferred with the simplest means in your own containers brought. Unpacked shopping for all!" the site says in German.
The goal of the crowdfunded store, which is located in Berlin, is to literally remodel the way customers shop for their groceries.
'Shopping to be beautiful again'
There are no "endless" shelves featuring items packaged with a host of promises. And once products are used, there will be no leftover packaging waste, meaning there is "no hassle about who takes out the garbage and no food to be disposed of because" shoppers have bought too much of a product.
Such waste is not only expensive, Original Unpacked says, but it is also very hard on the environment. The retailer says, in Germany alone, packaging for food items contributes to more than 16 million tons of trash.
"We find: Shopping to be beautiful again. And our environment should benefit from it," according to a translation of the store's website by Google Translate.
In addition to being package-less, the retailer's owners say they have carefully selected and tested every product they sell. And many of their products come from local growers, so that cuts down on the uncertainty regarding some products, as well as the risk of buying something that has a different taste or texture.
Also, the retailer says prices are cost-effective, and there is a selection of both organic and conventionally grown products.
"How will this work?" the retailer asks rhetorically on the store's website. Simple -- foods are attractively arranged in bulk bins and, as such, make for easy pickings. Customers are encouraged to bring their own (reusable) bags and containers to take their products home, though the grocer offers containers, including recycled paper bags.
"We believe that the current shopping concept is not sustainable and a change to unpacked shopping, long term, is environmentally friendly and has a larger overall benefit for society," says the company.
Yes, but will this concept work out?
Original Unpacked says it realizes that it is not yet a big player in the retail grocery industry -- in Germany or anywhere as of yet -- but its developers believe that the concept will catch on, around the country and beyond.
The concept was developed and honed over the course of a year by Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski, as well as Sarah Pollinger, Janina Steigerwald and Lola Mora. The venture was crowdfunded via the German firm StartNext.
In addition to displaying products in bins, others are placed in dispensaries. Also, there is an electric filling station for beverages; all foods come with clearly marked information labels. That includes nutritional information and place of origin.
Will the concept succeed? Chris Tognotti at Bustle wrote:
It's a very intriguing and exciting model, which will likely rise or fall on customer willingness to accept a bit more burden -- keeping your home stocked with reusable mason jars, or jugs, or whatever you want to tote along -- in order to do away with a staggering amount of needless waste.