Zero waste shops in the Chilterns

Monday 15 November 2021

refillshopcheshamThe zero-waste shopping movement has been dubbed ‘a quiet revolution.’ All over the UK, independent ‘refill shops’ have been popping up where you can bring your own storage containers, and refill them with everything from rice and pasta to flours, teas, spices, chocolate buttons and other dry food goods. You can top up your empty laundry liquid bottles, or hand soap and washing up liquid bottles too, and sometimes buy refills for drinks. The Chilterns area has its own are zero waste shops and businesses that have been popping up recently.

Zero waste shops help us to cut down our dependence on single-use plastics. They can also help cut food waste – when you are charged for what you buy by weight, you can choose to buy just a small amount of a food if that’s all you need – you just pay for what you buy. 

Refill shops aren’t a new idea – you could say it’s a return to how people used to shop  – but as more and more people become aware of the heavy cost of plastic production and disposal to the environment and wildlife, refill shops have sprung up to meet this new ethical shopping demand. Independent movements often influence the mainstream, and some supermarkets have followed suit – but small businesses often have the most diverse range, offering specialist ethically sourced products, and even ‘free from’ products for customers with special dietary needs. 

Hot on the heels of COP26 (the United National Climate Change conference), we’ve compiled list of refill shops and businesses in the Chilterns. Walk in and you might catch a welcoming scent of spices, teas, dried fruit, breakfast cereals and soaps – and there’ll certainly be a friendly community atmosphere.

The Pantry at 51 in Prestwood

Why cut down on single use plastic?

Ever since David Attenborough’s documentary Blue Planet 2, awareness grew of the devastating impact that plastic is having on marine life and sparked a large-scale public rejection of plastics, and greater awareness of the impacts that plastics have on our environment. A report with a foreword by Attenborough says that the public throw away two double decker busloads of plastic every 30 seconds. Single use plastic items represent 70% of all marine litter in the EU. This includes plastic plates, cups and cutlery, plastic bags and food containers, cotton wool buds and wet wipes and cigarette butts among other things.

Reasons to avoid single use plastics:

  1. Plastic is made from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form, then they are mined and made into single use plastic items that we sometimes only use for a couple of minutes before throwing them away – think of all those disposable coffee cup lids.
  2. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. Only a tiny percentage of plastics can be recycled. 
  3. Plastic production has a huge carbon footprint. Huge amounts of energy and water are used to make plastics.
  4. Plastic can leach toxins into food and drinks.
  5. Plastic waste kills marine animals and birds. 
  6. Microplastics can enter the food chain. Tiny fragments of thrown away plastic that have been broken down by the wind and waves are eaten by fish and then enter the food chain – some research suggests this can have an adverse effect on human health and the health of other animals. Microplastics can also get into drinking water. Microplastics get into sewage systems and don’t break down, which means they may be spread on soil be ingested by worms – another way that they get into the food chain.

Refill Shops in the Chilterns:

  • So Sustainable in Watlington stocks a huge range of refills, from coffee to rosewater, pasta, rice, grains and noodles of all kinds, Daisy and Dom chocolate beans and spices.
  • The Pantry at 51 in Prestwood offer food and household goods. There is also a café offering food that you can order for collection. 
  • Peterlee Manor Farm is the place for pick your own fruit then refill other goods in the farm shop. Check out the website before you go to see what’s in season. 
  • Just Trading in Wallingford has a great range of refill household products.
  • Bee Zero in Wallingford stocks dry goods & teas. You can also buy eco-friendly cosmetics and wash products there. Bring your own cup for coffee too.
  • The Refill Project Chesham – this shop offers many ethical household and cosmetic products and a fantastic selection of refillable dried goods. You can browse the list and see what to expect on their website.
  • Solarbean Coffee Not a shop, but an ethical coffee delivery service. This husband-and-wife team based in Penn near High Wycombe, roast their coffee beans in a solar powered roaster, in compostable bags, and deliver it to your door by bike! What could be greener? 
  • The Refill Pantry has two independent food and natural products zero-waste shops in St Albans and Berkhamsted
  • Seed 1 in Marlow is a fantastic, community focussed, planet-friendly, zero waste store - and a Community Interest Company (CIC). Products range from hot chocolate to confectionary, eco-friendly cleaning products to dried fruit, grains and flours. The shop also offers a delivery service.
  • Four State is a carbon neutral and waste neutral business that has shops in Henley, Marlow and Windsor. They sell an impressive range of eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable products, from homewares to bodycare and kitchen products and clothing, plus some household and cosmetic product refills. 
  • Also on the edge of the Chilterns is the True Food Co-op in Emmer Green on the outskirts of Reading a fantastic organic, ethical, and local supermarket, run by the community on a not-for-profit basis. You can do a complete shop here, including zero waste food products, bread, eggs, fruit and veg, baby food, bodycare and cleaning products.

If we’ve missed any, please do get in touch and we can add them to the list.

Bee Zero in Wallingford

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