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Supermarket Chain Got Rid of All Disposable Packaging

Supermarket Chain Got Rid of All Disposable Packaging
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Original Unverpackt sells items in bulk which forces customers to bring their own carrying containers

Rachel Pincus
  • 8 april 2015

One of the most commonly ‘greenwashed’ aspects of consumer goods (greenwashing being the unfortunate practice of paying lip service to environmental credentials for an ulterior motive) is in the area of packaging. When companies create a version of a product with ‘green’ packaging, customers often take companies’ word for it, rarely researching the environmental impact of the new form of packaging.

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One bold new supermarket chain in Berlin, called Original Unverpackt, is cutting through this misleading practice by going green the old-fashioned, and sometimes difficult, way: selling everything in bulk and allowing customers to bring their own containers.

Everyone gets just as much food as they need, avoiding waste from too-large packages, not to mention the hidden costs of packaging and marketing.

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Original Unverpackt, which opened in September 2014, offers an enormous range of items that dwarfs even the largest natural food store, ranging from typical nuts and grains to cheeses and even cleaning products, face creams and kitchen staples like baking soda.

Over 400 items are offered in a relatively small space—and this is partially made possible, no doubt, by the lack of bulky packaging.

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Of course, one of the more cumbersome aspects of shopping reusable containers is thinking ahead, and so as not to intimidate more spontaneous customers, Unverpackt sells and promotes a variety of reusable containers. One such item is the stainless-steel ECO Brotbox, which sidesteps many of the problems with plastic containers.

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Their relationship with the store building, which used to belong to a butcher for 100 years, is also interesting: working with Michael Brown of NAU Architects, they designed a renovation for their store and a brand identity that reflect the location’s past and their growing future.

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Unverpackt is still a small operation, but they want to ensure that news of their practices reach the ears of decision-makers at larger companies, even if they do not become their direct competitor. They’ve shown their interest in this by offering seminars once a month aimed at franchisees for €400 each. These include lessons on the impact of packaging on the waste stream and their standards of quality and hygiene.

The notion of “precycling,” invented by co-founder Sarah Wolf, is an honorable one, and this store’s opening is just the start.

Original Unverpackt

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