Global Plastic Solutions: Alternative plastic-free grocery stores becoming popular
Plastic has turned into a big problem for oceans and marine life. But can people truly be plastic free? Zero-waste grocery stores have fared well in many places, like Singapore, London, Berlin, and Vienna. The success of these stores gives US entrepreneurs hope that the concept can work state-side. Karina Huber reports.
Katerina Bogatireva never planned on opening a grocery store. But she was always passionate about food and sustainability.
KATERINA BOGATIREVA FOUNDER, PRECYCLE "At some point, I realized that I produced a lot of trash at home. I wanted to change that and I found it to be extremely challenging."
Challenging because plastic is everywhere in grocery stores today. She couldn't find any plastic-free ones so she created her own in Brooklyn, New York called Precycle. Everything is sold package-free. Customers bring their own containers or can use the store's paper bags.
There is very little dairy and no meat or fish but there is an abundance of dry goods, locally-sourced produce and liquid items like vinegar. The goal is to limit the plastic in grocery carts but also to get rid of the plastic in the supply-chain, which is really tough.
"I'm always curious to hear the genius solutions my customers find."
KARINA HUBER NEW YORK "Plastic-free stores like this one are popping up around the globe. They can be found in Hong Kong, parts of Germany, Ecuador and elsewhere as consumers are increasingly concerned about plastic pollution."
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, packaging accounts for almost a quarter of all the trash in U.S. landfills. Most of that waste is connected to food and drink.
ELIZABETH BALKAN, FOOD WASTE DIRECTOR NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL "Plastics that are used in food services are composites, which means they're made of different types of plastic resin and so the recyclability is greatly compromised when you have all these complex polymers being used in plastic packaging."
Balkan says it may be easier for smaller grocers to go plastic-free but larger stores can also take action. Grocery store chain, Trader Joe's recently announced it would reduce some of its plastic after pressure from a petition from environmental group Greenpeace and feedback from customers.
ELIZABETH BALKAN, FOOD WASTE DIRECTOR NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL "Every time you shop at a store, your dollar is your vote. If you tell retailers you expect them to innovate and to change things, I think that can be a really powerful force for change."
Bogatireva agrees. She says plastic-free is a grassroots movement.
KATERINA BOGATIREVA FOUNDER, PRECYCLE "It has to start from the bottom - from us and going up to bigger companies and governments."