So you already bring your own bag for supermarket shopping. Singapore’s first zero waste grocery store, UnPackt, wants to help you take it a step further. Buy rice in a reusable tub! Fill up your jar with only as much detergent as your household needs! Instead of buying pre-packaged goods, patrons of this new eco-friendly 1,200 sq ft grocery store nestled in Sembawang Hills Estate bring their own reusable bags/jars/containers (or borrow in-store recycled ones) to buy necessities such as pantry staples, home cleaners and even lifestyle goods. Fill your container with the desired amount of each item and pay by weight.
Zero waste shopping is already gaining ground in places like New York and London, but don’t brush it off as another hipster trend. Says UnPackt co-founder Florence Tay, 36: “We want to cultivate a culture of mindfulness. Going packaging-free means that customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips in advance, and to differentiate their needs from wants.” The former marketing manager and her co-founder Jeff Lam, 38, splashed out $100,000 on the business. “I’ve always believed that most packaging is unnecessary ’cos it just gets wasted, and we pay extra for it too. Last year, I got to know about the zero waste lifestyle from an online video. It was in line with a lot of my beliefs and habits, like bringing out my own cutlery and reusable grocery bag,” she says.
The eco-conscious concept makes a lot of radical cents — it curbs food and plastic waste, while trimming the fat from your grocery bill. No wonder zero waste grocers and BYOB movements have been popping up all over the globe of late. Clueless about zero waste living? We get Florence to answer three burning questions you may have about the latest eco-trend.
Q1: Why should I shop at a zero waste bulk store like UnPackt instead of standard supermarkets?
A: “Supermarkets usually have pre-packaged groceries, and sometimes, the portions may be too big for you to finish. As [my co-founder] Jeff lives alone, he knows very well the dilemma of whether to pay for more than you need. With UnPackt, we give you the flexibility of choice to get just the right amount. Also, since we do not have packaging costs, our rates are at least 5 per cent cheaper than what’s found in supermarkets. A common question we get when customers are paying is, ‘Are you sure that you calculated correctly?’ They’re very surprised that our goods are so affordable! We also ensure optimal freshness by getting our food products directly from wholesalers. Other than food items, we carry a range of lifestyle goods and homeware which help you to reduce waste in all aspects of your life. These are good one-time investments to reduce waste and save money in the future.”
Q2: Isn’t leading a zero waste lifestyle expensive and inconvenient?
A: “Singaporeans tend to like things fast and efficient. So plastic disposables are a huge part of our lives. But there are lots of convenient, eco-friendly alternatives. Without packaging costs and by only buying what you need, you save both money and the environment. For example, if you buy a beeswax wrap for $7, you can use it for a lot longer than cling wrap, which needs to be replaced indefinitely. Eventually, you will break even and save money in the long run. Everyone can adopt eco-friendly habits, not just those with a lot of time and money to spare."
Q3: How do I know the shampoo/floor cleaner/food that I’m buying best suits me, since the array is limited?
A: “The beauty of going packaging-free is that you can get just a bit of our bulk items to try out. There’s no wastage, and since customers are charged by weight, you can figure out which products are right for you without over-spending. We allow customers to sample and test our products, which are on display in store. We also have a wish list in the store for customers to write down what they would like to see at UnPackt.”
UnPackt is at 6 Jalan Kuras. Open daily 9am-8pm. More info at www.facebook.com/UnPackt.SG.
Scroll through the photo gallery above to see some of the items you can buy at UnPackt.