Viva la zero-waste revolution!

By Saoirse Nisbett and Mark Donlon

Wednesday 11 December saw the opening of Rathmines’ first ever packaging-free, zero-waste food store. Ken Kinsella of Blackrock has become Ireland’s first franchise partner of The Source Bulk Foods. The Source first started seven years ago in 2012 in the tiny Australian town of Mullumbimby by a husband and wife who wanted to live better and enable others to do so too. Starting from a small fruit, vegetable and health shop focussing on providing locally sourced, honest products. Now, The Source Bulk Foods have 60 stores in Australia alone and have franchised into the UK, New Zealand, Singapore and now Ireland.

After walking in and taking one look at The Source in Battersea, England, Ken decided it was going to be his next feat. The Source works on a franchise model, people express interest to open a branch wherever they are and if everything fits it’s a done deal. On the outside, The source may look like a big corporation opening another carbon-copy branch but when speaking to the UK’s managing director, Makaywa Drummond, she speaks of each branch of The Source Bulk Foods having their own identity.

In terms of buying waste-free in Ireland, it tends to be a little unrealistic. Most of our major supermarkets not only sell goods and food in a surplus of packaging, but they also send most of their own waste to landfill. Of the big supermarkets operating in Ireland, it is LIDL who are reacting quickest to the need for more sustainable shopping in Ireland. LIDL will soon start to sell more and more types of loose fruit and vegetables, with 11 more due to be stocked in the coming year. This would then represent a quarter of its fruit and vegetables being sold without plastic wrapping. Furthermore, LIDL has stopped sending waste to landfill; plastic, paper and cardboard are recycled and organic waste is harnessed into renewable energy.

 Dry food stock
Credit -Saoirse Nisbett

ALDI doesn’t go so far, but they do maintain all of their own-label packagings will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2022. Count on three years to 2025 and ALDI will, according to the company themselves, have cut product packaging in half. Marks and Spencer note how packaging is important for maintaining freshness but mentioned they wanted to avoid over-packaging items in a statement released by the company stating; “Packaging plays a significant role in protecting our products and keeping them fresh. It will always have a role but it’s important that we don’t over-package.”

Other major players like Dunnes Stores did not outline any details on plastic management within their operations or plans for future change.

It is with this lackadaisical attitude to waste, presented by major supermarkets in Ireland, that the already massive gap for waste-free shopping is widened.

Food jars
Credit: Saoirse Nisbett

One apprehension shared by the Irish public is that buying organic, local and by weight usually implies one will be buying at an increased price. Makaywa of The Source said: “The staple diet products we match to the supermarket equivalent because we believe that it’s not fair otherwise, but at the end of the day, we at The Source value the treatment of the people behind the food over a cheap price.

“We live in a society where we are accustomed to getting food at low low prices and expect to pay next to nothing for it but you have to take into consideration the background of the food you’re buying- whether or not it was ethically made, organic or sustainable.”

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