Solutions: Package Free Grocery Shops

In the US, containers and packaging of food, beverages, medicines and cosmetics make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 77.9 million tons of generation in 2015 (29.7 percent of total generation). (Source:

Yes, they exist, and they are not limited to seasonal farmer’s markets.

Living in NJ, it is easy to get package free produce for many months of the year. Our temperate climate has a long growing season. So much of our produce comes from our own gardens, including preserves in the off season. What we can’t grow, we can usually find at local farmer’s markets, farm stands, and through CSA’s.

But in the off season, sometimes it’s harder to find packaging free produce. I find myself less eager to purchase lettuce, carrots and celery when it comes in it’s own individual, disposable, single-use plastic bag or clamshell. Most major groceries especially wrap organic produce in plastic, to distinguish it from the non-organic produce. There is currently a whole movement going to ask Trader Joe’s to begin to reject it’s single-use plastic packaging in the produce section. Some grocery stores, like ShopRite, are finally going back to offering bulk section items like nuts, granola, beans and rice, but they require you to put those bulk items into individual plastic produce bags.

There are solutions to this, including the creation and support of packaging free grocery shops. I am lucky enough to live near the George Street Co-op, where the produce is generally sold without packaging and they allow me to tare and fill my own bulk containers and jars. It would nice to see this type shop as the rule instead of the exception. There is a growing support base for shops like this, plus smaller scale solutions like buyer’s clubs for bulk items and membership only food cooperatives. We need more of them to build sustainable systems and neighborhoods within our own communities. Check out quick video featuring a packaging free shop in New York City for inspiration. Share with your friends and maybe you’ll be inspired to start a buyer’s club, small food co-op or even a packaging free shop of your own!

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