By Andrea Beattie
Australia might be The Land of Plenty, but we’re also the second highest producer of waste in the world.
Every year, each of us sends 690kg of waste to landfill; that’s enough to cover the state of Victoria. Only the U.S produces more waste.
We also throw away $8 billion of edible food every year, which is 20 percent of the food we buy and enough to fill 450,000 garbage trucks.
Plastic bag use continues to be a huge environmental issue too — we use 10 million plastic bags every week, and 7150 of them end up in landfill every minute. The rest end up polluting our parks, waterways and oceans.
That’s 3.76 billion bags, or 20,700 tonnes of plastic, being discarded every year.
While grocery giants Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have introduced eco-friendlier packaging and policies to minimise waste, and bloggers such as Erin Rhoads champion the zero waste lifestyle, one Aussie business is creating real change by providing consumers with a wallet, and eco-friendly, alternative.
The Source Bulk Foods, which launched in the NSW town of Mullumbimby in 2013, follows a traditional shopping model — customers only buy what they need and take it home in paper bags, or refillable bags or containers they’ve brought with them.
“I think people started realising they can make a difference, and we really believe in the power of one; one person who reuses a shopping bag, or buys a reusable coffee cup, they’re making such a difference.”
The Source co-founder Emma Smith told The Huffington Post Australia that the idea for the bulk food chain came when she and husband Paul Medeiros were running an organic fruit and vegetable shop.
“When we expanded the fruit and veg shop, we started selling a lot more health foods and groceries, but we quickly saw that all these health foods were really heavily packaged,” she said. “It was such a contradiction, so we started selling a small selection of about 40 products in gravity bins. We loved that whole idea of getting back to basics, and refilling things the way your grandma did.
“Customers in Mullumbimby really embraced the concept — I think people started realising they can make a difference, and we really believe in the power of one; one person who reuses a shopping bag, or buys a reusable coffee cup, they’re making such a difference.”
Smith said that due to customer demand and support, The Source now has 30 stores across Australia, and all are zero waste and plastic bag free.
“And plastic bags are not necessary at all, we can all live without them — we did for hundreds of years before.”
“Customers can bring in any kind of bag, bottle or container — anything that can be refilled,” she said. “We just weigh the container at the front counter, they fill up, and we take that weight off at the end.”
She said the lack of packaging kept prices low for the customer.
“Depending on the product, we buy in large amounts, usually in a 25kg sack which is recycled or reused,” Smith said.
“When you go into the supermarket , you’re obviously paying for all the packaging — the fancy boxes and bags and the branding — and you don’t need them. It definitely works out more economical for people to only buy just what you need too.
“And plastic bags are not necessary at all, we can all live without them — we did for hundreds of years before. It’s just about being a bit more organised, having a bag or box in the car you can reuse.”
She said she and Medeiros hoped to open around 100 stores in Australia, before expanding overseas, firstly to New Zealand and then a potential move into the UK and U.S.
“The zero waste movement is getting momentum; I think people are feeling that it’s time to get back to basics,” she said.
“People are more mindful now and we’re trying to encourage that. We’re really trying to make a change and hopefully inspire other stores to do them same.”