The world’s first zero-waste supermarket, which allows shoppers to fill reusable containers with the exact quantity of produce that they need, has opened in Berlin.
It’s hoped that Original Unverpackt will help to reduce the 250kg of food waste that goes unused in each German household every year. Visitors to the store in the district of Kreuzberg can bring their own containers and have them weighed – the weight is printed on durable labels, meaning the process is quicker when customers return in the future with their old tubs and jars – and are then free to measure the exact quantity of produce needed from rows of dispensers lining the shop’s walls. At the tills, the weight of the containers is subtracted from the customer’s shop, and they pay only for the amount of food that they require.
The shop also sells bags of its own for customers that need them, and the whole process results in a supermarket that is free from the branded products and extent of packaging found in conventional stores. The store’s founders claimed that the concept has the potential to significantly reduce consumers’ dependence on bags, boxes and cartons, which ultimately have to be disposed of one way or another.
Many of the products on the shelves at Original Unverpackt are organic – but otherwise, the prices are comparable to those of a regular supermarket. Produce covers fruit and vegetables; nuts, seeds and cereals; herbs and spices; tea and coffee; store cupboard staples; ready-to-eat items, such as yogurt; alcohol; and a range of non-food items such as shampoo, soaps and detergent, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and even condoms.
Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski, who raised more than €100,000 in crowdsourced finance to help realise the store, said ahead of its opening: “Here, the customer only takes what they need. We’d like to offer an alternative way of shopping – one where we offer everything you need but you won’t find hundreds of different types of body lotion or olive oil.”
And NAU, the architectural firm that brought the store to life, explained that going against the characteristically space-efficient nature of product packaging presented its own issues. In a statement, the company said that “the great challenge of this new model was to develop new methods to allow the customer independent portions of food. Food retailing as we know it depends on shrink-wrapped products that are sealed and easily stackable. In contrast, the architectural concept of the store is oriented to specialised workstations that have been developed for certain types of products: liquids, grains, beans, cosmetics, detergents. This calls for more of the customer’s time and attention, but at the same time provides an enriching shopping experience”.
And Michael Brown, head of the Berlin office of architectural firm Nau, added: “We usually have the convenience to just throw a Tetrapak into the basket, but with Original Unverpackt customers have the chance to go a bit slower and become familiar with their food on a significant level again.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019