London’s first zero waste supermarket has opened

Items kept in glass jars at zero waste shop Bulk Market. Pic: Frances Rankin

“We should avoid plastic like the devil,” says the owner of London’s first zero waste supermarket. Bulk Market in Dalston doesn’t use any plastic packaging in their products and Ingrid Caldironi encourages her customers to fill up their old jars and containers with just the amount they need.

Caldironi started converting her life to zero plastic waste a few years ago, but struggled to find a shop that met her needs. She decided to go zero waste after watching a video of a young woman from New York fit all her rubbish from an entire year into a glass jar, but was struck by how difficult it is to buy everyday items without the plastic packaging. It was then that she decided to open Bulk Market.

Caldironi said: “I came up with the idea because I wish a shop like this existed. I’ve been going zero waste for the last two years, and it’s been a real struggle. So I thought if I’m struggling there must be others out there who are struggling too.”

Bulk Market aims to make going zero waste the easy option for buyers. The shop stocks more than 300 items and covers a range of groceries from numerous different types of dried rice and pasta, to four different flavours of dog food to shampoo and body wash. All of the products are sourced locally, and Caldironi tries to involve her local community and other social enterprises as much as possible. The cakes come from Luminary Bakery who support vulnerable women, and the bread has been baked by local young people looking to get away from crime.

Caldironi emphasises choosing local produce as a good way to be more eco-friendly. This, combined with consuming seasonal vegetables, buying loose produce and choosing organic food are the four main rules she uses to live responsibly. Caldironi said: “If you are doing these four things you are doing a lot for the planet and your own health.”

It’s taken Caldironi years to fundraise enough to open the shop on Dalston’s Kingsroad, and their website still has a top of the page banner saying ‘We are crowdfunding! Back us now.’

In an attempt to distance herself from stereotypes associated with those campaigning to end plastic waste, Caldironi describes herself as, “not a hippie or a tree hugger” and claims to have never been “hardcore green”. Instead, she aims to make reducing waste approachable and as easy as possible for her customers.

As a study revealed earlier this year that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled the zero waste lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular. There are now many websites dedicated to sharing tips on how to reduce plastic use as well as zero waste food recipes.

“People don’t really realise how big an issue plastic is, at first I didn’t realise myself!” says Caldironi. “We tend to think that everything gets recycled, but if you look into it you see that it really doesn’t.

“Plastic is such a highly engineered material that takes so long to break down, it isn’t something that should be disposable.”

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