Your guide to zero waste shopping in the UK. Scroll on for all the essential online stores and places to shop unpackaged. For local refill shops and zero waste projects across the UK, see here.
Online Stores for Zero Waste Living
Objects of Use is a store opposing ‘throwawayism’ by selling sustainably produced, built-to-last functional items. Most of its beautifully-designed products include kitchenware, stationary items, gardening tools, toys and more.
Boobalou is a treasure trove of reusables and other zero waste alternatives, run by a zero waster based in south-west London. A Fine Choice, and Zero Waste Shop are also worth checking out. Less Plastic have a shop selling a range of reusables.
Etsy is a truly delightful destination for zero wasters, selling everything from toiletries to colourful handmade produce bags and beeswax tealight refills.
To buy second-hand stuff, Ebay, Etsy, Oxfam Online, or Facebook Marketplace are good sites, Freecycle, Freegle OLIO has stuff for free. Many local waste authorities have reuse shops, often based at civic amenities sites, where usable items are rescued and sold.
Shopping for Unpackaged Groceries
I like independent shops best – they’re friendlier. Whole foods stores tend to source their products more carefully and take more care to avoid waste at all stages of the chain. There are many local shops across the UK where you can shop unpackaged, but if there are none near you, these are UK-wide chains where you can take your own bags and containers to fill.
Lush is probably the most well-known, selling naked soaps, shampoos, conditioner, deodorant, moisturiser bars and bath bombs. They are always happy to serve you in your own bag. Their plastic tubs and bottles are also made from recycled materials.
Many branches of Holland and Barrett do refills of oils and vinegars. Some branches also sell nuts and dried fruit that you can buy in your own bags, but since these bins are themselves refilled from small plastic packets, this is not an effective way to reduce packaging waste. The main benefit of buying loose goods here will be choosing exactly the amount that you want to buy.
Neal’s Yard sells unpackaged herbs and spices, including cocoa, rooibos, and all the popular herbal teas. The website has a list of products as well as a store locator. The advantage of shopping here is that you can choose exactly the amount you want to buy (over 100g). It’s also high quality herbs and is much cheaper than buying herbal teabags, many of which come in non-recyclable sachets and contain plastic which means they don’t biodegrade fully. It’s worth noting, though, that their jars are refilled from large packets, albeit more sustainable ones, so shopping here means reducing packaging but not eliminating it. There is no store-wide policy on bringing your own bags to fill, although most stores I’ve visited have been happy to serve me in my own bag. Neal’s Yard’s own cellulose bags do contain a plastic coating and are not fully biodegradable.
Il Gusto do refills of oils, vinegars and spirits and have outlets across the country. Their website has a store locator. Check first to see whether you can refill your own bottle or whether you need to buy one from their store.
Field Fare sell a range of loose frozen foods, including fruit, veg and bakery goods, in locations across the country. Take your own bags and fill with as much or as little as you like. The website has a store locator.
Most coffee shops are happy to serve you in your own reusable cup, and Starbucks, Costa, Pret and Paul all offer discounts to customers bringing their own. They will usually serve cakes and pastries into your own bag too.
Your local supermarket probably sells at least some loose fruit and veg, and quite possibly unpackaged bread rolls, pastries and doughnuts. Many supermarkets with cheese counters are happy to serve you in your own container.
Farmer’s markets sell good food, and they are generally happy to serve you in your own bag. Not the cheapest option always, but I love being able to talk to the producers, who are usually passionate about what they do.
To refill washing up liquid, laundry liquid and cleaning products, Ecover have refill stations at natural foods stores across the country.
To refill your water bottle on the go, check out the Refill app, to see if there is anywhere near you that is happy for you to pop in with your own bottle.
For beer, Bucks Star Beer sell locally-brewed beer in various locations in London and South East England.
Some supermarkets, such as Morrisons and Asda, sell wonky veg that was initially rejected for not looking good enough. Riverford Organics deliver boxes of wonky veg to various parts of the UK, and there are also local schemes in London and Leicestershire.
Delivered to Your Door
For cow’s milk and fruit juice in returnable glass bottles, Milk and More deliver across the UK.
Who Gives a Crap deliver toilet paper to your door, produced from recycled paper or bamboo. They promise to be 100% forest-friendly, and to donate 50% profits to toilet-building in regions where people don’t have access to toilets. (Alternatively, if you don’t want to import toilet paper from Australia, which is where these are sourced, Ecoleaf is available is many local shops and is sourced entirely from paper waste in the UK).
Splosh sell refills of cleaning products.