Come the end of November, Brooklynites will be able to buy their food without adding any additional packaging waste to the world, when Precycle, the borough’s first-ever zero-waste grocery store, opens.
When we wrote about the concept back in April, covering a grocery store in Amsterdam that claimed to be “the world’s first plastic-free pop-up store,” I assumed such a place was a total anomaly, or at least only the territory of progressive Europeans.
I was totally wrong. As it turns out, there are a number of grocery stores here in the U.S. trying to provide shoppers with a way to get their food without making the Great Pacific Garbage Patch bigger or contributing to other environmental issues.
Precycle’s founder, Katerina Bogatireva, grew up in Riga, Latvia, where plastic wasn’t readily available, and where bringing reusable containers for shopping was the norm. The idea for the store came after her move to NYC, where she realized she too had acclimated to the “throwaway culture” that’s almost inescapable nowadays.
The store, set to open in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, will sell produce, beans, grains, bulk items, and household products without using any single-use packaging materials. This encourages shopping in bulk, which can reduce the amount of waste a trip to the grocery store produces. The store will also sell reusable jars and other containers (non-plastic, of course) shoppers can buy and use again.
Bogatireva isn’t alone in the fight to cut down waste in grocery stores. As it turns out, there are quite a few outlets around the U.S. where folks are trying out similar concepts. To name a few:
The Zero Market in Denver, CO, sells all organic, plastic-free, toxin-free, and local goods to shoppers. They also offer workshops and education programs for consumers to learn more about the “zero-waste lifestyle.” You can even learn to make your own cosmetics there. At Nada Grocery, in Vancouver, BC, shoppers bring and fill their own containers, which are then weighed and priced accordingly. And until recently, Austin, TX was home to in.gredients, the first zero-waste store in the U.S. Back in April, the store shuttered, citing Austin’s rising rents as the reason.
That unfortunate news underscores the uphill trek zero-waste-concept stores will face as they push forward. Rising rents seem like a tiny obstacle when weighed against a much bigger problem: ingrained consumer behavior. In other words, most folks can’t even conceive of zero-waste shopping, let alone try putting it into practice. The other day, a cashier tried to double-bag a box of crackers I bought, and seemed perplexed when i told him that wasn’t necessary. Thing is, this kid was just doing his job, probably following orders from the higher ups. I doubt the concept of zero-waste shopping was even remotely close to his radar.
Maybe more stores like Precycle and others will help change that by making more people aware of waste issues, providing education, and possibly changing a few behaviors in the process.