Most of the food we buy today is wrapped into layers of plastic, paper or other packaging material. Food packaging ranges from cornflakes paper packages to single bananas wrapped in plastic material. This lavish use of packaging material has been leading to an annual average generation of 159 kg of packaging waste per citizen in the EU.

Taking the issue of food packaging serious, a new movement of zero packaging shops has been sweeping over Europe during the last months. Shops like Unverpackt in Kiel, Germany and Effecorta in Capannori, Italy have been opening their doors to the public. Their concept is simple; food is presented in big storage containers, customers fill the needed amount of groceries into their own or rented containers.

“Precycling” is the approach behind the zero packaging movement; packaging waste and its energy intensive recycling and disposal are avoided. In addition, food waste is reduced, as customers can exactly take the amount they need.

“What about hygiene regulations”, one might ask? To sell unpackaged food is legal, as long as the shop owners make sure, that the containers used by the customers do not impair the hygiene of the sold food. This can be ensured through the cleansing of the containers in the shop and the controlled distribution of the goods by shop assistants.

The coming months and years will show if the zero packaging shops will be accepted by society, if they will be able to persist on the market and how high their actual impact on packaging waste is. In any case, these shops have shown an alternative to lavish packaging practices, and even more so; they have moved back the focus on what is actually important behind all the packaging: the food.