Part way down a residential street in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester, is what at first glance appears to be an end-of-terrace house like any other. But inside is something more unexpected: instead of a living room, you’ll find the area’s first plastic-free shop – the walls lined with an array of grocery items entirely free from plastic.
This is Fulfilled, a shop both of the current moment and that harks back to the days when families would nip to the local store for a paper bag of sweets or flour for baking. It’s decked out with large glass jars of produce – nuts, spices, seeds, dried fruits, couscous – that can be bought at any weight. Though if you want to get them home safely, you’ll need to bring reusable containers as there’s no plastic packaging in store.
“Visually, it’s a modern twist on that old idea,” says its proud founder, 26-year-old owner Abbie Sellers, who left her job at the charity RSPB to set up the shop, in which she now works six days a week
As it’s housed in what would be the front room, the shop is small – but Sellers reckons it has already saved thousands of packs of plastic from going to landfill. “I wanted to make an actual, literal impact myself. I wanted to make more of a difference, and locally,” she explains to HuffPost UK.
She was spurred on by frustration at not being able to avoid plastic in regular shops and supermarkets. “Last year I gave up plastic for Lent and and it was so hard,” she says, admitting: “Well, actually I failed.”
The beauty industry has been particularly slow at cutting back on single use plastics and Sellers stocks items you won’t see often in regular supermarkets – eco-friendly shampoo bars, plastic free cotton buds and Mooncups.
To try and avoid as much waste as possible, she buys in bulk and even collects goods in person where she can, “to avoid getting a pallet delivered wrapped in plastic”.
Since Sellers first began making plans for Fulfilled in May, the dream has snowballed – the shop opened two weeks ago. She estimates that 200 people visited on its first day, boosted no doubt by the presence of Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who cut the ribbon at the opening.
Fulfilled is one of a number of new stores run by regular-people-turned-entrepreneurs who are inspired to make a difference in the waste stakes, but who feel mainstream supermarkets aren’t moving at a quick enough pace. There’s even a growing Facebook community, says Sellers, among people who would like to start their own waste-free supermarket.
Of course, you’ll need some cash to do that and Seller’s business did cost a fair whack to get off the ground (less than £20,000, she says). But she kept her startup costs low “by making shelving myself and using glass jars rather than fancy equipment.”
In July, HuffPost UK visited Birmingham’s first zero-waste supermarket, The Clean Kilo, which sits in the city’s creative district in Digbeth, round the corner from the old Birds Custard factory. Founder Tom Pell opened it earlier this year after raising £20,000 through crowdfunding.