Birmingham's first zero waste supermarket is opening and you have to bring your own containers
The Clean Kilo at 1 Gibbs St. Digbeth, B9 4AA, will sell everything from milk and coffee to toiletries and cleaning products, packaging-free.
Local scientist Tom Pell (31 and a PhD chemist, originally from Lichfield) has come up with a way of preventing shoppers from throwing away masses of unnecessary plastic wrappers, bottles and tubs. Instead of adding to landfill, people will be able to do their bit for the planet when The Clean Kilo opens in Digbeth this year. At the store, customers can bring their own containers and fill them with everything from pasta, rice and flour to milk, toiletries and cleaning products.
How will The Clean Kilo work?
Customers will bring their own containers or buy them from the store. There will also be paper bags for those who need them. All the products will be stored in gravity wall-mounted dispensers so that people can dispense as much or as little as they need. There will also be a deli selling cheese, ham and cured meats. The items will then be weighed before paying.
What products will be on sale?
Products for home baking, like sugar and flour, together with cereals, pulses and nuts will be on offer and there will also be lots of spices and herbs. Dairy items such as milk and creme fraiche will be available and there will be a fresh orange juice machine similar to those found in cafes. Baked goods will be brought in twice a week from a bakery. Fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs will be supplied by a local farm in Lichfield. People will be able to grind their own coffee beans in store and choose from eight different loose teas. There will also be a peanut butter grinder and Tom hopes to add in an almond butter grinder in time too. Items like dried fruit will be scooped out in a similar way to a pick and mix stand at a cinema. There will be lots of products to cater for those with allergies, such as gluten-free pastas and flours and soya and almond milks too. People will also be able to pick up washing up liquid, detergent spray and cleaners. And there will even be shampoos, conditioners and moisturisers too.
Will shopping here make a big difference to the environment?
“I really wanted to do something for the planet, something that wasn’t academia because I didn’t think that would be making as much of an impact. Every year at least eight million tonnes of plastic enters our ocean – that’s the equivalent of two bin lorries full every minute! Even though some plastic can be recycled, only 50 per cent of plastic in Britain actually makes it to this end, either because of mismanagement or because the technology isn’t available. “Every piece of plastic that has ever been produced will take between 450-1000 years to decompose. Rubbish like this finds its way into canals and rivers and eventually the ocean. Toxic chemicals move up the food chain in a process called bioaccumulation, meaning that our dinner plates are contaminated with toxic, endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals. Through my extensive background in chemistry, I am aware there is currently no viable scientific solution to remove plastic from the ocean, there is only one realistic solution: to reduce the need for single-use plastics. This doesn’t just mean plastic cutlery or coffee cups, but also the plastic surrounding almost every product you buy from a supermarket. Buying at The Clean Kilo will help save the planet and marine wildlife and help to keep toxic chemicals off your dinner plate.”
Will certain food products not be available?
To start with, Tom is not planning to stock raw meats but he hopes he may work with a butcher in the future. “We want to stock as many products as we can but there can be difficulties with shelf life,” explained Tom. “So we’re going to work with customers once we’re open to see what the demand is. As a zero waste supermarket, if we have a lot of waste product it would be pretty sad. I do keep finding more products every day that I want to stock.”
Will it be more expensive than the supermarket?
“We want to make it accessible to as many people as possible so our prices will be based on the biggest quantity items you can buy at the supermarket,” said Tom. “It will make it easier for people who cannot afford to buy in bulk. Only the other day, I went to buy some creme fraiche and found I had to buy a 500ml tub when I only wanted 100ml. I think that’s an issue for a lot of people. You will also be saving money because you won’t be paying for packaging – almost a fifth of your shopping bill goes towards packaging.”
Will there be click and collect?
Yes. People will be able to order online then drop off their containers and collect them later.
“The convenience factor is an issue,” said Tom.
“We have to make it viable for busy people.
“We have received very positive feedback but there has been the odd person saying they live a fast paced life and time is a big factor.
“So we’re going to offer click and collect where people order online and drop off their containers to us, say in the morning before work. We can then fill them up throughout the day and they can pick them up on the way home.”