How do zero waste shops improve the customer experience?

You may think zero waste shops are a relatively new concept. And yes, there may only be 400 stores in the world. However, if you were to go back 80 or 90 years, you would find that many shops did something very similar. In fact, it was the norm for shops to actively encourage their customers to reuse glass bottles and bag their own fruit, vegetables and groceries with paper bags.

So where did it all go wrong? Why did it stop? More importantly, why is this style of shopping now back in demand?

The answer is simple: plastic.

Over the last 50 years, there has been a massive focus on offering customers more for their money i.e. foods that last longer and don’t go off as fast. In their quest to fulfil this need, manufacturers grabbed onto plastic, Styrofoam, cans etc. and used them to help revolutionise the food industry. Yet, in their wake they have massively damaged our environment and have filled it with products that will biodegrade – if we’re lucky – in 50+ years. As you can imagine, this has led to a rise in pollution that continues to negatively affect wildlife and the planet.In 2018 alone, we witnessed the heart-breaking story of whale in Indonesia that died as a result of swallowing 1000’s of pieces of plastic. Similarly, the media is constantly filled with images of turtles with straws stuck up their noses and wildlife trapped in plastic. The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year captured this sad reality with his Sewage Surfer image.

And the cause? Us.Knowing all this, it should come as no surprise that we are seeing a rise in businesses who are looking for ways to combat the growing disposable plastic problem. From encouraging customers to reuse their shopping bags, to enticing them to take a holistic approach to shopping – zero waste shops pose the perfect solution.

In one compact, already proven system – think about it, we used this shopping style for centuries until plastic packaging came into play – we can dramatically cut back on plastic, and prevent more of it from getting into the environment.

How does zero waste shopping work?

The idea behind zero waste shopping is to eliminate packaging for food and non-food items, and make the whole experience completely plastic free.

From serving pasta, grains, seeds and dried fruit in hoppers, to getting customers to pump washing up liquid and laundry products into old squeezy bottles, to offering customers natural alternatives i.e. bamboo toothbrush holders; within zero waste stores, consumers are actively encouraged to reuse any containers they already have, and if possible, go completely natural by using packaging that will easily biodegrade (without harming the environment). In doing so, we can positively lower everyday consumption and protect the earth.

For instance, one store in Bali (run by Silvija Rumiha) has prevented the use of 2,500 bags and has stopped 12,000 pieces of single-use plastic packaging from going into the ocean in its first 5 months. Imagine what 100’s of stores can do?

How can zero waste shops help to improve shopping experiences?

This will feed into their shopping journey and make it more of a social experience. The Newt are a great example of this, they grow and cook produce on site, their packaging is considered, and they even specially bake one local old chap a load that’s almost burnt because “that’s how he likes it”.



There is also the nostalgia they will inspire. By going ‘retro’ and mimicking shopping experiences of times gone by – pre-supermarket – you will reach a new audience base.





In fact, alongside experimenting with reusable packaging formats, some top supermarkets are aiming to become zero waste businesses by 2023 (Iceland) and 2025 (Marks and Spencer); while others are already encouraging customers to bring in their own containers in exchange for loyalty points.

And this is great for the development of zero waste stores, as by broadening consumer knowledge of the issue; their natural interest may entice them into visiting dedicated zero waste stores more often.

More interestingly, customers are usually willing to pay more for brands that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. Already, supermarkets have witnessed a 300% increase in vegetable sales since they ditched single-use plastic wrapping. This suggests with the right strategy, zero waste stores can make more money – especially as most products are cheaper than traditional brands.


If you are to take anything from the points above, it is that – zero waste shopping can make a massive difference to consumer experiences. Not only does it enable shoppers to eat healthier, buy ethically and support their local community; it is also a very immersive experience.

From enlisting the help of your community to help buy and launch the shop, to allowing customers to pick and weigh their own products; this level of interaction will stimulate both pride and passion in your shoppers as their investment in your store will be nearly as strong as your own. As such, they will be more committed to its success and will be more inclined to choose you over a supermarket – especially once they see your prices.

If you’re interested in transforming your store into a zero waste haven, at Resolution Interiors we can help you to create a store concept that not only fully embodies this plastic free philosophy; it will ensure that your customers enjoy a stress free, efficient shopping experience. To learn more about our fit out designs, speak to a member of our team today…