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Shopping without packaging in Hamburg's first zero-waste store


Trend to package-free food rising as more stores open up

Hamburg’s first unpackaged shop called Stückgut has been operating an entirely different concept successfully since 2016. Food, hygiene products and cleansing agents are sold entirely without packaging – as opposed to organic cucumbers wrapped in plastic, biscuits in plastic bags with additional foil and shampoo in plastic bottles. Package-free food and goods caters to the needs of shoppers keen to avoid mounds of plastic waste amid climate change.

Einkauf im Unverpackt-Laden Stückgut
Einkauf im Unverpackt-Laden "Stückgut"© Andrea Lang

Customers bring containers

The products are offered loose, in dispensers or reusable containers. Customers bring their own containers e.g. glass bottles, screwtop jars, cloth bags or lunch boxes so that the packaging-free shopping concept actually works. The empty containers are weighed before being filled with flour or oil etc. The weight of the containers is deducted at the check-out so that customers pay only for the food.

Sustainable, fair and biological

“We offer a basic assortment of around 700 products. We offer one rather than 20 sorts of mustard, which is produced sustainablybiologically and nearby without plastic and delivered to us,” said Sonja Schelbach, Managing Director. The high demands required plenty of research and arrangements with individual manufacturers in addition to transport and the logistics of reusable systems. However, the effort is paying off, she added. Since its launch, “Stückgut” has saved more than 630,000 disposable packages – the equivalent of about 4,800 yellow bags – and continues to prove that shopping without waste packaging works.

Spendersystem im Unverpackt-Laden Stückgut
Spendersystem bei "Stückgut"© Roman Dachsel

Alternative to conventional supermarkets

Schelbach founded “Stückgut” with Christiane Bors, Insa Dehne and Dominik Lorenzen. “We wanted to avoid waste packaging. Shopping in ordinary supermarkets made this almost impossible, so we wanted to create an alternative,” said Shelbach. The team opened their first shop in Ottensen in January 2017 and a second store followed later in the Rindermarkthalle on St. Pauli. Schelbach and Dehne work full-time as managing directors for “Stückgut” and employ 25 people.

Transporting and storing food

Stückgut gets the food mainly from organic farms and bakeries in the region. Fruit and vegetables are delivered to the shops in reusable crates and in a small amount of cartons. Dry goods such as spices and rice are delivered in bulk, Schelbach pointed out. “We have to compromise as entirely plastic-free does not work everywhere.” More and more products have the “packaging-free supply chain” seal. Coffee and vegetable broth, for instance, are delivered as part of returnable system in containers with deposits, which avoids waste packaging entirely.

Rising number of packaging-free shops

The idea is spreading and more and more like-minded shops such as “Ohne Gedöns” in Volksdorf and “Bio Lose” in Eimsbüttel have opened up and are now selling food without packaging. The “Twelve Monkeys” store in St. Pauli sells only vegan food, pet food and merchandising while “Wohlempfinden Pur” on Sternschanze sells spices and herbal salts free of plastic. The environmentally-conscious can shop at “Uncle Emma” in Bergerdorf and at “Monger” in Hoheluft, which also features a café and sells breakfast and lunch.

Source and further information:

Melissa KnausJan. 3, 2020