16 June 2022
Pay a visit to your local refill shop this World Refill Day
1.6 billion takeaway coffee cups are used every day across the world1. Back in 2018 Starbucks introduced a ‘latte levy’ of 5p on single-use paper cups in order to try reducing the number of disposable cups being thrown out and encourage people to switch to reusable cups for their coffee. They added a further 25p discount for anyone who brought a reusable cup with them.
World Refill Day is a global public awareness campaign to prevent plastic pollution and encourage people to live with less waste. Although reducing the amount of single use plastics we go through can be challenging as many of the larger, chain supermarkets aren’t set up to be able to do this. Though there are some small changes that we all can make to help reduce our impact and be more environmentally conscious. This can include:
- Reusable shopping bags
- Avoid single-use plastic straws, and even paper ones too! (Try metal or reusable plastic instead!)
- Carry a reusable water bottle / coffee cup
- Buy a mesh bag for fruit / veg at the supermarket (these are often made out of plastic)
- Visit your local refill shop
“The Bare Alternative is a low waste lifestyle and refill shop providing affordable eco-friendly shopping” says Mathew Reynolds, owner of The Bare Alternative in Sheffield. They sell a wide variety of different loose food items such as cereals, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, pasta and rice, flour and sugar and liquid refills. On top of that, they sell household items, personal care, toys / chews for pets and containers for you to use and fill up!
We asked Mathew to tell us a bit about his shop, why he started and where the idea came from. He said “We sell a variety of whole foods alongside products to help you reduce waste and live a more sustainable life. We offer a wide selection of zero waste refills such as cooking ingredients for making healthy meals package-free. We also sell natural cleaning product refills (laundry and washing up liquid, shampoo, and conditioner etc.), everyday sustainable alternatives (bamboo toothbrushes along with cosmetics) and much more that will help you live a low impact lifestyle.
I started the shop in November 2018 as a way for the local community to reduce the impact they have on the environment by removing unnecessary packaging from their everyday shopping and replacing other items with less wasteful or environmentally damaging alternatives. The idea to start the shop came after hearing about the trend of zero waste shops and one opening in Sheffield, however, it was on the opposite side of town so I thought it would help others by having a similar shop in our local area too.”
We also asked Mathew some questions about the importance of zero waste and how refill shops work.
What is a refill shop?
Refill shops allow you to bring your own containers to refill which removes the need for single-use packaging. You can bring any container you find suitable, so the obvious example is once you empty your bottle of washing up liquid, you can bring it to us to refill rather than throwing away the bottle for a new one. For dried foods though, we see people reuse plastic takeaway containers as they are light to transport, but some people prefer to bring glass jars that they keep on the shelf at home.
Why is zero waste important?
As I mentioned, a lot of the products we sell are typically sold in single-use packaging from the supermarkets, but this becomes unnecessary when there is an option to remove it by refilling instead. This single-use packaging is also typically hard to handle waste and not recyclable meaning that it ends up in landfill, or in Sheffield becomes fuel for the waste incinerator. There are also cases where the waste is mismanaged and could be shipped out of the country to be processed or "recycled".
How does the shop work?
When you bring a container to refill, we weigh it before you start so we know its weight. We do this with some fancy scales that print a sticker with a barcode on it. We then let you have all the fun by heading into the shop to do your refills. Once you've got everything you need then come to the counter where we scan your sticker and reweigh your container. Scanning the sticker removes the weight of the container so we only weigh the contents you put in and what you pay for.
How else can people contribute towards zero/low waste?
The best advice I can give is to seek out sustainable alternatives for the things that you use the most day-to-day but be careful of 'greenwashing' and the claims that companies make about products. Just because something is labelled as 'eco-friendly' doesn't really mean anything unless they can back up the claims they make!